Cautious Russia seeks consular access to suspected arms dealer
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Last Updated: Thursday, November 18, 2010, 22:40
Moscow: Russia on Thursday asked the United States to grant its officials consular access to suspected arms dealer Viktor Bout who has been extradited from Thailand, but said assistance to him was not endorsement of his innocence in advance.

Even as Russia took a cautious stance on the extradition of alleged arms to the US by Thailand, it said the Washington was "obliged to fulfil international norms" by urgently allowing Russian officials consular access to him.

"As regards protection and consular aid, it will be provided to Bout. Many people - legal experts and businessmen as well as lawbreakers - get into complicated situations.

Regardless of this, we will be guided by the universal principles of assistance to Russian nationals," Sergei Prikhodko, the Kremlin foreign policy aide, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.

Bout, 43, dubbed "Merchant of Death" was extradited on Tuesday after spending more than two and half years in Thai prisons.

He was formally charged in a New York City court yesterday.

His charges include a conspiracy to supply arms to terrorist groups and a conspiracy to kill US nationals.

"This did not mean Russia was 'a priori' proclaiming his innocence," Prikhodko underscored.

"We have nothing to hide, no one sees any military or other secrets here...he should answer the questions," the top Kremline official said.

Bout could face life in prison if convicted on all four charges against him and Russia has offered to hire a paid lawyer for his defence.

Russia had earlier slammed the extradition of Bout, saying it was result of pressure applied by Washington on Bangkok.

"Undoubtedly, the illegal extradition of Bout is a result of the unprecedented political pressure on the Thai government and the judicial authorities by the United States," Russian Foreign Ministry had said in a statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it will continue to provide legal assistance to Bout after his abrupt extradition by the Thai court.


First Published: Thursday, November 18, 2010, 22:40

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