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Russian diplomat's article on Bout case does not represent official position

RIA Novosti

15:04 27/08/2010

MOSCOW, August 27 (RIA Novosti) - An article on the Viktor Bout case published on Thursday by a Russian Foreign Ministry official in the English-language Moscow Times daily does not represent Russia's official position on the issue, the ministry said in a statement.

The article defending the alleged arms dealer was written by Vladimir Kozin, the deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry's information and press department, and entitled Ballyhoo Over Nothing.

"The evaluations and judgments expressed by Vladimir Kozin in this article represent his personal opinion but not Russia's official position," the statement said.

Former Russian army officer Viktor Bout, 44, was arrested in Thailand in March 2008 on a request from the United States, which accuses him of illegally trading arms. Bout has denied the accusations.

Last Friday, the Thai appeals court ruled to extradite the Russian to the United States.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the Thai court's decision politically motivated, suggesting it was made to appease Washington. He also said Moscow would seek Bout's repatriation.

In his article, Kozin wrote that the Bout case was an "unfair and unfriendly gesture initiated by the United States" and urged that Bout be released from his "long and illegal detention."

"Taking into account Moscow's firm support of Bout, who remains innocent under U.S., Thai and Russian law, the ballyhoo created by Washington over him may inevitably effect Russian-U.S. relations to the detriment of the U.S. effort to 'reset' them," the diplomat said in his article.

In August 2009, a Thai court ruled in Bout's favor, denying the U.S. extradition request due to a lack of evidence and because the case was politically motivated. However, he was not freed because the United States appealed the ruling denying the extradition and filed new charges against him.

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