Cautious Russia seeks consular access to suspected arms dealer

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.

PTI



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

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