Former Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout joined a Russian ultranationalist political party only days after his return to Russia following a prisoner swab for Brittney Griner, fueling speculations that he may run for the Russian Duma, one of Russia’s chambers of parliament.
The press service of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, a far-right political party, published a photo of Bout holding up his new membership card and standing next to leader Leonid Slutsky, who took over after the death of infamous Russian firebrand Vladimir Zhirinovsky earlier this year. His acceptance into the party was announced during the party’s annual conference in Moscow celebrating the anniversary of its founding, held Dec. 11-13.
Bout has denied that he plans to run for office as a deputy for the party in Russia’s parliament, but the timing of his announcement, his public support for the Kremlin, and his popularity among Putin loyalists have fueled speculation that he may be considering a political run.
“I’m sure that Viktor Bout, a stout-hearted and courageous man, will take a rightful place here. Welcome to the club,” Slutsky told Tass, a Russian state media outlet.
Slutsky also said Bout was invited to the Duma’s Committee on International Affairs and the LDPR faction.
When asked on Monday whether he would nominate himself or accept a nomination to run for office on Monday, Bout replied, “I’m not going to for now.”
Bout’s public support for the actions of the Kremlin has helped to fuel speculations about his political aspirations. In an interview with Russia Today, he said he supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “wholeheartedly” and even hinted that he might directly support it in some capacity.
“If I could, I would share the skills I have and I would readily volunteer,” he said.
The LDPR is primarily known for its bombastic public statements and ultranationalist positions. Zhirinovsky’s proposition that Russia should put giant fans on its border with the Baltic States to blow radioactive waste over them and that Russia should drop nuclear bombs on Japan are among dozens of threats the party has issued.