“Merchant of Death” Viktor Bout was photographed visiting the Russian-controlled city of Luhansk after being sent back to Russia in exchange for WNBA player Brittney Griner.
In a move described by some as an effort to “embarrass the United States,” convicted war criminal Bout was photographed wearing a suit while visiting the city of Luhansk after being swapped for Griner on December 8.
Luhansk, formerly a part of Ukraine in the contested Donbass region, has voted to join the Russian Federation in a referendum that the international community dismisses.
Though Luhansk held large numbers of Russian separatists prior to that country’s Special Military Operation launched earlier this year, the city required a lengthy period of fighting before Russia eventually forced Ukrainian troops out of the city.
Russian state media confirmed that Bout visited the city, and included a statement from the arms dealer which assured Russians that the area “would soon be peaceful, and people would live without fear for their future.”
Bout was photographed by the Odessa Journal attending the official launch ceremony for the Luhansk branch of the Kremlin-aligned Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR).
Some expect the former weapons trader to run for parliament to represent the LDPR, while Bout himself has suggested he may join the fight against Ukraine.
Regardless, ZeroHedge postulates that Bout’s “brief foray” into what remains an active war zone “is meant to send a message of humiliation for US foreign policy,” especially noting the sharp divide in opinion in the United States, where many believe Bout should not have been traded for Griner, especially while a U.S. Marine remains in a Russian work camp.
Though it remains unconfirmed whether Bout visited formerly Ukrainian territory solely to embarrass the United States, it would not be the first time Russians have celebrated the trade.
Immediately after Bout arrived home, Russian operative Marina Butina – convicted in the United States of serving as a Russian agent – joined pro-Kremlin media to mock the United States for making “an offer that can’t be refused” by trading Griner for Bout, and to celebrate Russia’s “position of power” over the United States.