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12 Sep, 2023 18:12

Viktor Bout wins seat in Russian regional elections

After spending 12 years in a US prison, the businessman secured a mandate in the Legislative Assembly of Ulyanovsk Region
Viktor Bout wins seat in Russian regional elections

Russian businessman Viktor Bout, who was released last year from a US prison in a prisoner swap, has secured a seat in the legislative assembly of Ulyanovsk Region in regional elections on Sunday. 

Bout’s victory was reported by the press service of the regional election commission in a statement to the TASS news agency on Tuesday. 

The businessman represents the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), which received 13.56% of the vote in elections to the Ulyanovsk Legislative Assembly, coming in third after United Russia, which scored 49.91%, and the Communist Party (16.96%). 

Bout joined the LDPR in December of 2022 after spending 14 years behind bars, including 12 years in a US prison, where he was serving a 25-year sentence. He ended up in Washington’s custody in 2008 after being arrested in Thailand and extradited to the US. He was then convicted on gun-running charges. Bout has consistently denied any wrongdoing. 

On December 8, 2022, Bout was released as part of a high-level prisoner swap between the US and Russia that saw the businessman exchanged for basketball star Brittney Griner, who had been sentenced to a penal colony in Russia on drug smuggling charges. 

As soon as he returned home, Bout announced that he would join the LDPR, stating that he sympathized with the party’s message and believed it to be a powerful party that is close to the people. 

The LDPR is currently the fourth-largest party in Russia’s lower house of parliament, called the State Duma. It was founded by the late firebrand politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who passed away last year. The party focuses on patriotism and conservatism, and opposes both modern neoliberal capitalism and Soviet-style communism. 

Voting was held in roughly one-fifth of Russia’s 89 federal subjects on Sunday. Voters cast their ballots for local leaders and legislatures, including in the four former Ukrainian territories of Kherson, Zaporozhye and the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics. This marked the first time that regional and federal elections were held in these regions since they joined Russia last year following public referendums. 

A total of 45 million out of 67 million eligible voters participated in the elections, according to the Central Election Commission, which noted that Sunday’s turnout was the highest since 2017.