Russia's 'Merchant of Death' Chickens Out of Fight During Live Broadcast

Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images
Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images  

After being freed in a prisoner swap for US basketball star Brittney Griner, arms dealer Viktor Bout is making rounds on Russian propaganda networks, but he is already changing his tune.

During an interview last month with convicted Russian agent Maria Butina for the state media outlet RT, Bout proclaimed his wholehearted support for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and said he would certainly sign up as a volunteer, if he had the opportunity and necessary skills.

During his Wednesday interview with Komsomolskaya Pravda Radio, Bout was a lot more cautious, probably realizing that no special skills are required to be dispatched to the frontlines.

Hosts Dina Karpitskaya and Alexander Gamov listened to the "Merchant of Death" as he gushed about his unrelenting support for the so-called "Special Military Operation." Bout said: "Like any Russian man, a patriot of the Motherland, I support this operation and will do everything in my power to speed up our victory and achieve all of our goals in this operation." He added: "Most of our population rose up and is supporting this operation... Russia woke up! This capability was always within the Russian people, but now it's being awakened since it's needed. Our nation woke up after some kind of a hibernation after thirty years of being in limbo, a new Russia is starting to take place."

Bout pompously proclaimed, "The state that our nation is currently in, I believe it is my duty to do something for my country."

However, this "something" apparently does not include risking his own skin for the Motherland.

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Gamov read a question sent in by one of the program's listeners, identified only as "Vladimir Ivanovich": "Let Bout prove his patriotism towards the Motherland by joining Wagner in Soledar. Did Prigozhin make him an offer of joining the PMC [a private military company]?" After a moment of stunned silence, Bout said with notable irritation, "No, there were no offers to join the PMC. There again, you have to understand where you can be most useful, and which of your skills and knowledge would be handy."

Instead of risking life and limb, Bout decided to become a politician, having joined the pro-Kremlin ultranationalist LDPR party (Liberal Democratic Party of Russia) and claiming that he could help improve things in the country. Karpitskaya asked: "Why is it that you, Maria Butina, Konstantin Yaroshenko return and immediately go into politics?" Bout replied: "Because in fifteen years, you've saved up a lot of energy that has to be spent on doing something for the Motherland... I have to do everything in my power for our great and mighty Motherland!"

Karpitskaya repeatedly pressed Bout to identify the areas that needed most improvement. With slippery persistence, Bout avoided any criticism of Russia, simply noting that there were many problems and that the so-called "special operation" highlighted multiple weak spots. Perhaps realizing that Bout was more comfortable criticizing America, Gamov asked: "You know the American mentality quite well. They understand that they won't win, NATO won't win in Ukraine-why do they keep exterminating the Ukrainian people? Why do they keep going? Why won't they surrender to us?"

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Bout immediately relaxed and livened up, delivering a spiel about the wicked West and claiming that its entire goal is to provoke a popular uprising in Russia in order for its people to overthrow Putin. He didn't try to explain the obvious fallacy of this claim, since the Kremlin started the invasion against the backdrop of Western leaders publicly urging Russian President Vladimir Putin not to do it.

The convicted arms dealer complained about harsh conditions and inhumane treatment in American prisons, directly contrasted by his own tales of successfully disseminating Russian disinformation to his U.S. prison guards and listening to Soviet songs in his prison cell. Bout proudly claimed: "Those Americans with whom I was imprisoned and even the prison guards absolutely do not trust their own media, like CNN. What's interesting is that CNN is on the verge of bankruptcy. They're being watched only in prisons, airports and nursing homes."

Bout delivered an unexpectedly cheerful prediction as to the future of Russia's relations with the United States: "Sooner or later, the deep America will stand up, take power into its hands and install a normal president like Trump, who will say: "Why wouldn't we want to get along with Russia?" Karpitskaya quietly replied: "We'll be waiting."

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