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Bout's Last Stand
A Diplomatic Struggle Over Viktor Bout's Fate Ensues as the "Merchant of Death"
Faces 25 Years in Prison
Andrew Roth - Russia Profile - russiaprofile.org - 4.10.12 - JRL 2012-66

Viktor Bout, the Russian businessman and convicted arms dealer whose story has spawned Hollywood spinoffs, was sentenced in downtown Manhattan on Friday afternoon to 25 years behind bars. Bout got off with the minimum sentence despite calls from prosecutors to sentence him to life in prison for conspiring to kill U.S. nationals through his arms sales. Nonetheless, Bout's sentence was met with fiery words in Moscow, where Russia's Foreign Ministry released a statement calling the trial "ungrounded" and "biased," while Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he would fight to extradite Bout back to Russia.

Viktor Bout Behind Bars
file photo
After years of eluding investigators and developing an arms trafficking empire that spanned three continents, Bout was finally arrested in Thailand in 2008 for trying to sell weapons to FARC rebels, including anti-aircraft missiles to shoot down American helicopters. The FARC representatives turned out to be U.S. agents executing a sting ­ after a lengthy extradition process, Bout was brought to New York in 2010, where he faced arms trafficking and conspiracy charges. He was convicted in November, and was sentenced on Friday.

Bout responded to the sentencing with broad accusations, claiming that he faced a politicized legal process that rushed to convict him. "I can only hope that in the end, citizens of Russia will understand what has been done to me ­ this should just show everyone who is the boss in the world. If we simply swallow this... I'm sorry, then it turns out that Russia is not under its own jurisdiction, but should live according to the laws of the United States," he said in an interview with NTV. In another interview with Russia's state-owned Voice of Russia radio, Bout said "the trial smacked of an inquisition."

In lockstep with Bout's statements from Friday, Russia's Foreign Ministry cast aspersions on the impartiality of the trial, while Lavrov, who has been the most outspoken of Russia's senior officials on the case, said Bout would play a part in his upcoming talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "Viktor Bout is a topic that has regularly figured in our talks with the Americans over the last year. We are regularly pushing and calling for them to present a just approach [to Bout's case]."

Alexander Golts, a political analyst, said that Bout had been "demonized" in the American press as the "personification of evil" for his weapons smuggling activities. However, he said that the jury that convicted Bout appeared to give fair consideration to Bout's lawyers' arguments. "Viktor Bout promised agents of what he thought were terrorists to deliver weapons. That fact is indisputable," said Golts.

Meanwhile, the head of the Russian State Duma's Committee for International Affairs Aleksei Plushkov told RIA Novosti that Bout's sentencing and jail term in the United States would likely contribute to a freeze in U.S.-Russian relations. "The keys to bettering our relations are in the hands of the American sid