Russia wants 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout back

LavrovMOSCOW -- Russia will work to bring convicted arms smuggler Viktor Bout back home, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Friday, strongly implying that his country disagrees with the verdict handed to Bout on Thursday by a U.S. federal court in New York.

Lavrov said during a visit to neighboring Kazakhstan that Russia will not be seeking revenge for Bout's conviction and sentencing. "In any case, we intend to achieve his return to the motherland. In our relations with the United States, we have all the necessary legal instruments for this,” he said.

Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death" because of alleged arms dealings across the globe, was sentenced to 25 years in jail. That minimum sentence creates a comfortable ground for Russia and the United States to find a compromise that would allow Bout to be extradited to Russia, a political expert said.

“Bout was a businessman involved in arms trafficking under control of the Russian special services and they will find a way to get back one of their own,” said Sergei Markov, vice president of Plekhanov University of Economics. “The U.S. special services understand that they need to resolve this sooner than later before their own spy and arms trafficker is snatched by Russians or perishes in a mysterious accident.”

Bout's wife, Alla, characterized the sentence as a small victory. In an interview with pro-Kremlin Voice of Russia radio, she said she expected the Russian government to intervene and change Bout’s fate.

“In the near future I expect some more substantial steps on the part of our state,” she said.

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-- Sergei L. Loiko

Photo: Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Credit: Vyacheslav Oseledko / AFP/Getty Images

 
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