Russia-US: 10 things you need to know about Viktor Bout, arms dealer turned bargaining chip

By Vincent Duhem
Posted on Wednesday, 7 September 2022 11:00

Viktor Bout in a cell at the criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand, 11 August 2009. ©Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP

Sentenced in the United States to 25 years in prison in 2012, Viktor Bout could be swapped for basketball player Brittney Griner and ex-soldier Paul Whelan, two American citizens currently detained in Russia.  

1. Bargaining chip

Russia has been calling for his release for many years. At the time of his arrest in Bangkok in 2008 and his extradition to the United States two years later, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov denounced the Americans’ “arrogance”. Why are Russian leaders so keen to get him back? At the time of his arrest, some experts believed that Moscow was concerned that Bout had some military secrets and information about the former KGB (Soviet secret service).