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ABC News blast from the past:

When U.S. officials announce the arrest of a notorious arms dealer and drug-runner this afternoon, the fact that his planes flew U.S. supply missions in Iraq will likely go unmentioned.

In a January 2005 letter to Congress, then-Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted the Defense Department “did conduct business with companies that, in turn, subcontracted work to second-tier providers who leased aircraft owned by companies associated with Mr. Bout.”

At the time, Bout was already a wanted international fugitive. Intelligence officials had considered Bout one of the greatest threats to U.S. interests, in the same league as al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden. Interpol had issued a warrant for his arrest; the United Nations Security Council had restricted his travel.

But that didn’t stop U.S. government contractors from paying Bout-controlled firms roughly $60 million to fly supplies into Iraq in support of the U.S. war effort, according to a book released last year by two reporters who investigated Bout. And it didn’t prevent the U.S. military from giving Bout’s pilots millions of dollars in free airplane fuel while they were flying U.S. supply flights.


Does this shock you, even at all?





NY Times:

Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer freed in the swap for Brittney Griner, said after returning home that his fellow Illinois inmates were “sympathetically inclined” toward Russia. Then he echoed the Kremlin line that America was trying to “destroy us again.”

Mr. Bout spoke in an interview Friday for Russian state television with Maria Butina, the Russian member of Parliament who herself once served a little over a year in U.S. prisons. Ms. Butina, who became a minor celebrity in Russia after her conviction in the United States for operating as an unregistered foreign agent, called Mr. Bout “a small person in big geopolitics.”

The interview was a sign that Mr. Bout, too, could take on high-profile status within Russia after returning home — in his case, 14 years after his arrest. Russian state television covered his late-night arrival at a Moscow airport, with a reporter saying he welcomed Mr. Bout along with “all of us who offered words of support.”

“The West thinks that they didn’t finish us off in 1990, when the Soviet Union started to collapse,” Mr. Bout told Ms. Butina, repeating President Vladimir V. Putin’s talking points and describing himself as a victim. “They think they can destroy us again and divide Russia into many parts.”

Interesting part here:

But he demurred when Ms. Butina asked whether he experienced any “Russophobia” in federal prison in Marion, Ill. Southern Illinois, he explained, was in America’s “red belt,” suggesting that he saw Republicans as friendlier toward Russia than Democrats.

“I didn’t face such Russophobia from the staff,” Mr. Bout said. “Even almost all my inmate neighbors were mainly, in some way, sympathetically inclined toward Russia.”