Is Viktor Bout, the Merchant of Death, Now Venturing into Politics?


In recent times, an unexpected turn of events has Viktor Bout, often termed the “Merchant of Death,” making headlines again. This infamous Russian arms dealer, who was swapped for WNBA star Brittney Griner in December 2022, has now been endorsed as a political candidate for local elections in Russia by a far-right party. Such developments provoke questions on Bout’s intentions and how his notoriety may influence the political landscape.

  1. Summary of “Merchant of Death”
  2. The Origins of the Nickname
  3. Bout’s Celebrity and Political Aspirations
  4. The Book “Merchant of Death”
  5. Viktor Bout’s Perspective
  6. The Transition to Politics
  7. International Interest in Viktor Bout
  8. Conclusion

Viktor Bout’s journey from being an international arms dealer to a potential politician has been nothing short of captivating. Known predominantly by his moniker, “Merchant of Death,” Bout’s recent involvement in a high-profile prisoner exchange involving WNBA player Brittney Griner has further spotlighted his life. Furthermore, his acceptance as a candidate by a prominent party in Russia signals a fresh chapter in his already controversial narrative.

Summary of “Merchant of Death”

Date Event
1967 Viktor Bout’s birth in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
1990s Commencement of Bout’s career in arms dealing.
2000 U.S. government indicts Bout for violating the Arms Export Control Act.
2008 Viktor Bout’s arrest takes place in Thailand.
2012 A U.S. jury convicts Bout, leading to a 25-year prison sentence.
2022 In a significant event, Bout gets released from prison due to a prisoner swap involving Griner.
2023 Bout gets endorsed as a candidate for local Russian elections.

The Origins of the Nickname

Long before his current political aspirations, Bout was dubbed the “Merchant of Death” and “Sanctions Buster.” This epithet was attributed to him after a 2003 report presented to the United Nations by British minister Peter Hain. In this report, Bout was highlighted as “one of the world’s most prolific arms dealers,” marking him as a significant figure in the global weapons black market.

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Bout’s Celebrity and Political Aspirations

Bout’s past as a convicted arms trafficker is a stark contrast to the world of politics. Yet, his celebrity status, stemming largely from his notoriety, could potentially sway regional voters, especially in areas touched by conflict. On the other hand, skeptics argue that his contentious background could hinder his political prospects.

The Book “Merchant of Death”

For those eager to delve deeper into the intricacies of Bout’s operations, the 2007 publication “Merchant of Death” by security experts Douglas Farah and Stephen Braun offers insights. The book provides a comprehensive view of how Bout’s airplane fleet was crucial in transporting weapons to various global conflict zones.

Viktor Bout’s Perspective

Bout, in discussing the exchange involving Brittney Griner, often expresses his sentiment of being used as a “pawn.” Defending himself against the accusations that led to his U.S. conviction, he asserts his innocence.

The Transition to Politics

A foray into politics by someone with Bout’s background is undoubtedly unprecedented. While it’s uncertain how his political journey will unfold, Bout’s candidacy promises to attract considerable attention and debates.

International Interest in Viktor Bout

Bout’s saga has consistently piqued international curiosity. His alleged roles in illicit arms dealings, coupled with his “Merchant of Death” nickname, have made him a focal point in the media. The recent prisoner exchange with Griner has only intensified this global spotlight.


The tale of Viktor Bout, transitioning from the world of arms to the domain of politics, is undeniably gripping. As the narrative unfolds, it’s certain that the “Merchant of Death” will remain a topic of discussion and fascination for many.


1. Why is Viktor Bout called the “Merchant of Death”?
He earned this nickname due to his extensive involvement in the global arms black market, as highlighted in a 2003 UN report.

2. When was Bout released from U.S. prison?
He was released in December 2022 as part of a prisoner swap for WNBA star Brittney Griner.

3. Is Bout entering politics?
Yes, he has been approved as a candidate for local elections in Russia by a far-right party in 2023.

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— by Keshav Pandya