Russia’s “merchant of death” offered Donald Trump asylum in Russia this week, saying he believes the former president’s life is in danger if he remains in the United States.
In an interview on a Russian state-TV channel, Viktor Bout—an international arms dealer made infamous after his portrayal by Nicolas Cage in the 2005 film “Lord of War”—told a reporter he had sent a telegram to Trump warning him of an imminent threat to his life and urging him to flee to Russia for safety.
The threat against Trump’s life, Bout suggested, is not from an assassin or some unknown plot against him. Instead, he said, it comes from Trump’s own government and is a result of the Manhattan district attorney’s probe of allegations that Trump falsified business records to hide a hush money payment to former adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.
Trump was arraigned this week on 34 counts related to that charge. He has denied all wrongdoing in the case, as well as an affair that Daniels claims they had.
“The legal process which has now begun in New York won’t just end in Donald Trump being convicted and barred from the  election,” Bout said on the Russia-24 news channel.
“Most likely he will simply be eliminated there,” he continued. “Therefore, I think it’s in the best interests of all of humanity and primarily all of the American people to invite Donald Trump here, to Russia, to give him security and protection here so that he leads this uprising against the globalists and, most importantly, does not allow the elimination of the American people.”
Newsweek reached out by email to the Trump presidential campaign for comment.
Bout made headlines internationally after he was party to a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia for basketball star Brittney Griner this past December. She was sentenced to nine years in prison after being apprehended at a Russian airport and accused of possession of a small quantity of cannabis in her luggage. Authorities charged her with drug possession and smuggling.
Bout, by contrast, allegedly had familial connections at the very height of the Russian government and had attracted international scrutiny for his alleged crimes long before he was ever charged with anything.
He was eventually charged by U.S. officials in 2010 on allegations of lending material support to designated foreign terrorist organizations, conspiring to kill Americans abroad and conspiring to acquire and use an anti-aircraft missile, amid numerous other charges.
Some Trump supporters have said the Manhattan case against him is politically motivated, citing a handful of small political donations made to Democratic causes by the case’s presiding judge, as well as the political leanings of Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin has faced years of scrutiny for his alleged willingness to dispatch his political opponents by any means necessary.
The most notable example is opposition leader Alexei Navalny, a fierce critic of Putin who was imprisoned by the Russian government in 2021 for an alleged violation of his parole on charges that international observers say were politically motivated. Navalny nearly died in August 2020 after he was poisoned with a nerve agent.