‘New Year Gift’: Russia Takes Victory Lap After Biden Frees ‘Merchant of Death’

WHITE PLAINS, NY - NOVEMBER 16: In this photo provided by the U.S. Department of Justice, former Soviet military officer and arms trafficking suspect Viktor Bout (C) deplanes after arriving at Westchester County Airport November 16, 2010 in White Plains, New York. Bout was extradited from Thailand to the U.S. …
U.S. Department of Justice via Getty Images

The government of Russia and its state media arms celebrated the release on Thursday of Viktor Bout, a warlord known as the “Merchant of Death,” from U.S. custody as a “New Year gift” for a “wonderful person.”

The administration of far-left President Joe Biden liberated Bout, who had been sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of attempting to sell weapons to Colombian communist terrorists, in exchange for Russia freeing WNBA player Brittney Griner, convicted of bringing a cannabis product into Russia. Law enforcement experts consider Bout one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers and the Department of Justice had compiled evidence prior to his extradition and sentencing of Bout admitting that he supported trafficking weapons to kill Americans.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday that the risk of Bout operating freely was worth Griner’s release because the basketball player was “an important role model and inspiration to millions of Americans, particularly the LGBTQI+ Americans and women of color.”

The White House

The prisoner swap notably omitted another American imprisoned in Russia, Paul Whelan, a Marine veteran sentenced on dubious “espionage” charges.

The Russian government, through “Human Rights” Commissioner Tatyana Moskalkova, celebrated the freedom of “wonderful person” Viktor Bout on Friday.

“The swap of Viktor Bout for US basketball player Brittney Griner can truly be described as a New Year gift. I think, everyone who followed the ordeal of this wonderful person, who had fallen victim of US insinuations, is now filled with joy,” Moskalkova reportedly said, according to the Russian news agency Tass.

Moskalkova emphasized that she believed Bout’s sentencing in the United States was the “result of an illegitimate and unfair verdict” despite the ample evidence used in court. Russian officials insisted following Bout’s release, however, that they would pressure America to release all Russian prisoners, not specifying only those that Moscow believed were the victims of any injustice.

“We want to assure you that we will continue our energetic work to release all Russians jailed in the United States, and we will not rest until all our compatriots return back home,” Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Anatoly Antonov proclaimed on Friday.

Putin himself appeared to confirm on Friday that Russia’s intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB), was involved in the swap and that more could occur in the future, offering vaguely, “anything is possible.” By Friday, Putin was delivering remarks proclaiming the “dawn of a multipolar world order” and appearing to describe the decline of the United States as a dominant power as one of several “objective historical processes.”

Tass and Russian state outlet RT published a flurry of reports on Thursday and Friday citing Bout’s family members and Russian officials celebrating his freedom. Mother Raisa Bout was quoted as personally thanking Russian leader Vladimir Putin for his role in her son’s freedom.

Wife Alia Bout told Tass that her husband was “very exhausted” and “felt terrible,” but expressed gratitude to the United States.

“He said he was grateful to the American side for being fed. I, he says, have not eaten so much in practically the last 12 years. He was treated very nobly, with respect,” Bout said, suggesting that the American prison system had abused him. Bout had served 14 years of his 25-year prison sentence when he was released.

“He was not shackled, not handcuffed, he was treated very generously, they talked to him. Everything was discussed,” Alia Bout claimed about the swap for Griner.

Viktor Bout reportedly complained that the Americans had not allowed him to keep his “drawings” made in prison.

“I hope that all of his documents and drawings will be handed over to the Russian embassy in the near future. We already spoke to the Russian envoy tonight. We hope that the American side will give him those documents and drawings that he was not able to take from prison, they were not prepared in time,” his wife said.

Bout himself spoke to RT for an interview published Friday. In yet another apparent dig at the Biden administration, RT had Maria Butina, a convicted foreign Russian agent, conduct the interview. RT described her as a “Russian gun rights advocate,” a notable title given Bout’s extensive record of clandestine arms trafficking.

Bout commended his fellow inmates in the United States, claiming they were friendly and “sympathetic towards Russia.” He also claimed that his release was not a moment of weakness for the Biden administration, dismissing the geopolitical struggle between the two countries entirely.

“I am certain that our leadership does not think in those terms, whether you are weak or not. Real strength doesn’t require expression on such a, frankly, cheap level,” RT quoted Bout as saying. “I believe the deal happened because some common ground was found that allowed both sides to be satisfied.”

Butina herself appeared to disagree, posting on the social media application Telegram, “this is a position of strength, comrades.”

Bout’s release followed a similar prisoner swap that Biden approved with the socialist regime of Venezuela – a Russian client state – to free Efraín Antonio Campo Flores and Francisco Flores de Freitas, Nicolás Maduro’s nephews. The Flores cousins were convicted in a New York court of attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. The men claimed the drugs belonged to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the narco-terrorist group that Viktor Bout was convicted of attempting to sell weapons to. Biden received the release of several American Citgo oil executives in exchange for the convicted drug traffickers.

Biden has also presided over the release of a wave of former Guantánamo Bay prisoners, believed to have ties to al-Qaeda and other Islamist groups.

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