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Freed Russian arms dealer Bout joins ultranationalist party loyal to the Kremlin

FILE PHOTO.  Russian Viktor Bout is escorted by a member of the special police unit as he arrives at a criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand.  October 4, 2010. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj
FILE PHOTO. Russian Viktor Bout is escorted by a member of the special police unit as he arrives at a criminal court in Bangkok, Thailand. October 4, 2010. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

By Felix Light

Dec 12 (Reuters) – Viktor Bout, the Russian arms dealer released on Thursday after 14 years in US custody in exchange for US basketball star Brittney Griner, has joined the ultranationalist Kremlin-loyal Liberal Democratic Party, its leader said on Monday.

In a video posted on Telegram, party leader Leonid Slutsky, standing on a stage next to Bout, said: “I want to thank Viktor Anatolievich (Bout) for the decision he has made and welcome him to the ranks of the best party. politician of today’s Russia”.

Despite its name, the Liberal Democratic Party has embraced a hardline ultranationalist ideology since its founding in 1991, demanding that Russia reconquer the countries of the former Soviet Union.

Its founder and longtime leader, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, built a reputation as a political extrovert for his outrageous maneuvering and eccentric behavior before his death in April.

Though seen as a serious contender for power in the 1990s, the party has since assumed a subservient role in Russia’s political system, exercising token opposition to the ruling United Russia bloc and backing the Kremlin on most issues.

He has a history of recruiting controversial personalities in Russian politics. In 2007, Andrei Lugovoy, a former KGB agent wanted in the UK for the murder of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko the previous year, was elected as an MP for the Liberal Democratic Party.

(Information from Reuters; Edited in Spanish by Benjamín Mejías Valencia)

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