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Notorious Russian arms dealer freed in Brittney Griner exchange awkwardly backs out of pledge to fight in Ukraine

Leonid Slutsky Viktor BoutArms dealer Viktor Bout in Moscow, Russia, on December 12, 2022.

Aleksandr Sivov, Press Service of Liberal Democratic Party of Russia via AP

  • Freed arms dealer Viktor Bout appeared to reverse his position on whether he’d fight in Ukraine. 
  • After being freed in exchange for Brittney Griner last December, Bout said he’d “readily volunteer.”
  • But he shied away after he was confronted during an interview on Wednesday, The Daily Beast reported.

The Russian arms dealer who was freed in a prisoner exchange for Brittney Griner late last year has walked back on earlier claims that he would volunteer to fight on the front line in Ukraine. 

In an interview on Russian radio station Komsomolskaya Pravda Radio on Wednesday, Viktor Bout became evasive and irritable when reminded of an earlier statement about his willingness to fight, according to The Daily Beast

Bout was speaking at length about his pride in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, when the interviewer cut in to relay a question from a listener, saying: “Let Bout prove his patriotism towards the Motherland by joining Wagner in Soledar,” according to The Beast.

The listener went on to ask whether Bout had received an offer to join the troops of the Wagner Group, a mercenary army fighting on Russia’s behalf. Earlier this week Wagner claimed to have captured the eastern Ukrainian town of Soledar, although independent assessments question the extent of its control.

According to The Beast, Bout said: “No, there were no offers to join the [private military company]. There again, you have to understand where you can be most useful, and which of your skills and knowledge would be handy.”

It was a strong about-face from comments Bout made to Russian state TV only a month ago. 

Back then, Bout told RT that: “If I could, I would share the skills I have and I would readily volunteer” to fight. 

Bout was freed from US jail on December 9, in exchange for WNBA star Brittney Griner, in a high-profile prisoner swap engineered by the Biden administration.

Bout attracted the nickname of “The Merchant of Death” over his prominent arms dealing operation in the 1990s, as Insider previously reported. He was arrested in a sting operation in 2008, and later convicted in the US of conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.

When freed he was serving a 25-year prison sentence, most recently at a federal penitentiary in Marion, Illinois, according to The New York Times

Bout has loudly backed Russia’s military in interviews since his release, and has joined the ultra-nationalist, pro-Kremlin Liberal Democratic Party, as Reuters reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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