World News

Former Russian arms dealer traded for Brittney Griner runs for office under far-right political group

The former arms dealer, who the U.S. traded in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner, is running for office in Russia as a member of a far right political party.

Viktor Bout, 56, has joined Russia’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and is now running to be elected to the regional legislature. The LDP currently holds 23 of the 450 seats in Russia’s legislature. The party is to the right of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dominant United Russia Party.

The arms dealer, once known as the “merchant of death,” had been serving a sentence in the U.S. after his 2008 arrest in Thailand. He was freed in December 2022 as part of a prisoner swap for Griner, who had been sentenced to nine years in prison for possession of vape cartridges containing cannabinoids.

Bout served just 10 years of his 25-year sentence in the U.S.


Bout and Griner in photos

This combination of images shows Viktor Bout, left, a former Russian arms dealer at the criminal court in Bangkok, on Aug. 20, 2010 and WNBA star and two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner, right, in a courtroom prior to a hearing, in Khimki, outside of Moscow. (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong, left, and Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)

Griner last made headlines last month when she was harassed by a YouTuber at the airport in Dallas/Fort Worth.

Griner was the subject of harassment on June 10 at the airport when YouTuber Alex Stein approached her and asked several questions, including whether she had sex with Vladimir Putin to get out of prison in Russia.


Russian President Vladimir Putin

YouTuber YouTuber Alex Stein asked WNBA star Brittany Griner about a possible triste with Russian President Vladimir Putin. (Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

The man was pushed away by her team’s security, and one of Griner’s teammates is heard calling the YouTuber “weird.”

Griner aired out her opinion on the matter when the Phoenix Mercury held a video call introducing interim head coach Nikki Blue.

Brittney Griner questions a call

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was sentenced to nine years in prison in Russia. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Griner argued that the WNBA should provide more funding to allow teams to travel on private chartered planes rather than normal airlines. She said the harassment incident was “rock bottom” for the WNBA.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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