The jailing of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout has prompted a diplomatic war of words between Washington and Moscow.
Bout protested his innocence as the judge in the New York court passed a 25-year sentence on Thursday. “I never intended to kill anyone, to sell arms to anyone,” he told the court. His lawyers have said they will appeal the judgement.
The reaction from Moscow has been emphatic calling the sentence, politically biased while vowing to press the United States to return him to Russia.
“Despite the shakiness of the proof base and the unlawful method of his arrest with the participation of U.S. intelligence agents in Thailand and subsequent extradition, the American judicial system, carrying out an obvious political order, ignored the arguments of the defence lawyers, as well as multiple high-level appeals in defence of a Russian citizen,” said Maria Zakharova, spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Bout was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 in an undercover sting by U.S. agents posing as Colombian guerillas.
His sentencing comes at an uncertain time for Russian-U.S. ties with Vladimir Putin’s return to the Kremlin next month and President Obama facing a re-election battle.