On July 13, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov pledged that his ministry would “do everything it can do to free Russian citizens serving prison terms in the U.S.”
"We as an agency will do everything in order to hasten the moment when the families of Konstantin Yaroshenko and Viktor Bout will reunite[,] when Roman Seleznyov and our other compatriots who have ended up in such a tough predicament in life would be able to return home,” Ryabkov said, according to Russia’s TASS state news agency.
The claim is misleading.
Ryabkov said Bout, Yaroshenko and Seleznyov “ended up in a tough predicament in life” without mentioning that all three were convicted of major crimes.
Viktor Bout was an international arms trafficker whose business dealings in the 1990s and early 2000s earned him the monikers “The Merchant of Death” and “Sanctions Buster,” the latter referring to his knack for getting his supply planes into countries under embargo. Most of Bout’s arms deals took place in Africa, where he supplied arms to factions in several different countries and to Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, who was later convicted of war crimes. There is evidence that Bout may also have had dealings with the Taliban and al-Qaida in Afghanistan before the U.S. invaded that country in 2001.