Viktor Bout joins right-wing Russian political party
Russian businessman Viktor Bout has officially become a member of the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), days after he was exchanged in a prisoner swap for US basketball player Brittney Griner. He was personally handed his membership card by the party’s leader during the LDPR’s 33rd anniversary on Monday.
“I am sure that Viktor Bout, a strong-willed and courageous person, will take a worthy place in [the party]. Welcome to our ranks,” said LDPR leader Leonid Slutsky. He previously stated the businessman would also be invited to a meeting of the Duma (lower house of parliament) Committee on International Affairs and the LDPR faction.
The far-right LDPR is currently the fourth-largest party in the Russian Duma. It was founded by the late firebrand politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who passed away earlier this year. The party focuses on conservatism and patriotism and opposes modern neoliberal capitalism as well as Soviet-style communism.
Bout has told journalists that his decision to join the party was driven by the fact that he sympathizes with the LDPR and believes it to be a powerful party that is close to the people. He has stated, however, that he does not intend to run in any elections for the time being.
Last week, Moscow and Washington conducted a high-level prisoner swap, exchanging Bout for jailed WNBA star Brittney Griner. The athlete had previously been sentenced to a penal colony in Russia on drug smuggling charges, while Bout had spent over 14 years behind bars, including 12 years in US prisons, as part of a 25-year sentence for arms-trafficking. The businessman has consistently denied the allegations against him. After arriving in Russia, he told RT that he had become caught up in the gears of geopolitics.
Both Griner and Bout were pardoned by their respective nations before the swap, which means they won't need to continue serving their terms at home.