Russia’s arms dealer Viktor Bout with the nickname the “merchant of death” has joined the pro-Kremlin ultranationalist (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) LDPR party, following his release in a high-profile US prisoner swap.
In a video posted online, LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) leader Leonid Slutsky thanked Bout, 55, for becoming a member of “the best political party in today’s Russia”.
After an elaborate US sting, Bout was sentenced to 25 years in jail in 2011.Last week, he was exchanged for US basketball star Brittney Griner, 32.
Griner, 32, was arrested at a Moscow airport in February for possessing cannabis oil and last month she was sent to a penal colony.
Griner’s agent, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, told ESPN that on Sunday, she picked up a basketball for the first time in almost 10 months, starting her light workout with a dunk.
The agent added that it did not necessarily mean that the athlete – who is currently in the city of San Antonio – would resume her sporting career at the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).
Mr Slutsky said that Bout had spent “long years” in prison, but “today he is with us”.
“We will return all those who are in trouble outside our motherland,” he vowed.
Meanwhile, Bout said that for the time being he was not planning to run in any elections, Russia’s Ria Novosti news agency reports.
The LDPR (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) was founded in the early 1990s by the late Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who gained notoriety for his outrageous comments – including repeated demands for Moscow to use nuclear weapons – and his eccentric behaviour.
A serious contender for power during the first years in the post-Soviet Russia, the party is now seen by many as loyal to the Kremlin on key issues, such as the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
It is not the first time the LDPR has recruited high-profile figures at the centre of big international scandals.