A Bout face: Moscow lobbies for Bout's return
Moscow has harshly criticized a US court’s guilty verdict in the Viktor Bout case and vowed to secure the former Soviet military officer’s return to Russia.
On Wednesday, a New York Federal jury found Bout, 44, guilty of attempting to sell heavy weapons to a Colombian terrorist group. He will be sentenced on February 8, 2012, and may get from 25 years to life behind bars.Commenting on the decision, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that it will continue taking “all measures needed to ensure the legal rights and interests of Viktor Bout as a Russian citizen.” “Our goal is to secure his return to his home country,” the ministry’s spokesperson Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a commentary published on the body’s official webpage. Moscow once again pointed out that Bout – a Russian citizen – was illegally extradited from Thailand “under unprecedented political pressure from American authorities.”What was “absolutely unacceptable,” Lukashevich stressed, is that “unlawful methods of physical and psychological influence” – which run contrary to the international law and US international obligations – were used during the “operation” involving American special services officers, and again during the investigation.The Russian side expressed its indignation over the negative atmosphere around the Bout case which, was deliberately stirred up “at the direct instigation of the US executive power” and impeded an impartial investigation into the facts.“One cannot consider it normal that a Russian citizen was kept in custody in unjustifiably harsh conditions, obviously aimed at making him agree to a plea bargain,” the spokesman said.These factors call into question “the very grounds on which the prosecution was based and, correspondingly, the justice of the court verdict.”The Russian lower house believes that the New York court decision could be politically motivated. The verdict was delivered in a style of “typical American propaganda,” said First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee Leonid Slutsky, as cited by Itar-Tass. Bout was turned into a kind of “an evil genius”, a “baddie” from Russia. The official is confident that Moscow should continue fighting for its citizen and added that “neither the state nor the family will leave him.”Another representative of the committee, Andrey Klimov stated that both the Bout case and the verdict are pieces of the same “political put-up job.” What the former military officer is convicted of “is utter rubbish”. Following the logic of the American justice bodies, Klimov observed, one cannot even hypothetically discuss whispering “with his wife in the kitchen” anything that can pose a threat to US interests. “That is exactly what they want to imprison Bout for,” the MP asserted.The deputy believes that Moscow should use both political and diplomatic methods in order to prevent such violations of the rights of Russian citizens from happening in the future.