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"Merchant of Death" Viktor Bout, Russian arms dealer freed in swap for Brittney Griner, is running for office

Hill and Krebs on the Griner-Bout prisoner swap
Fiona Hill and Chris Krebs on the Griner-Bout prisoner exchange 09:43

Viktor Bout, the notorious Russian arms dealer known as the "Merchant of Death" who the U.S. exchanged in a prisoner swap for WNBA star Brittney Griner last December, has been approved as a candidate for local elections in Russia by a far-right party, according to Russia's state-owned news agency, TASS.

The ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party has approved Bout as a candidate for the Legislative Assembly elections in the Ulyanovsk region in central Russia, TASS reported. He was also on the list of candidates for the Krasnoyarsk City Council, which will be held on Sep. 10, according to TASS.

Before his arrest in 2008, Bout helped fuel civil wars across the world by supplying sophisticated weapons to fighting factions — sometimes to both sides in bloody conflicts. His arms-dealing work earned him his infamous nickname.

Viktor Bout poses during the opening of an art exhibition in Moscow on March 7, 2023.
Viktor Bout poses during the opening of an art exhibition in Moscow on March 7, 2023. ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP via Getty Images

Bout was taken into custody as part of a Drug Enforcement Administration sting operation that spanned three continents. He was extradited to the U.S. in 2010 and served 10 years of a 25-year sentence before being swapped for Griner.

"Viktor Bout, in my eyes, is one of the most dangerous men on the face of the Earth," Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, told "60 Minutes" in 2010. 

Caitlin Yilek contributed to this report.

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