Russia’s Man of War

The Extraordinary Viktor Bout

February 2025 9781911723943 304pp, 16 colour illus
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Available as an eBook
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Viktor Bout was the ‘Merchant of Death,’ according to the US National Security Council, CIA, and MI6, a terrorist facilitator and the world’s most prolific arms dealer. They tracked him everywhere, smuggling weapons from North Korea and across the former Soviet Union, into the world’s bloodiest conflict zones from Liberia to Afghanistan. They said he was a secret asset of the KGB and its successor agencies, the White House describing him as the most dangerous man in the world. But Bout strenuously denied this, describing himself as a businessman.

US investigators hunted him for more than a decade. In 2008, they finally trapped him in Thailand and extradited him to New York, where he was jailed for 25 years. Then in December 2022, Bout’s story took an unlikely turn. President Joe Biden pardoned him and sent him home to Moscow, in a prisoner exchange for basketball super star Britney Griner, jailed in Russia on a drugs offence. As Griner settled back into her American life, Bout cosied up with doomed Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov and Russian governors Putin installed in occupied Ukraine. Does America’s extraordinary decision to release Bout for Griner undermine Western interests? Has Putin put him back to work in his old business? Based on candid interviews with US investigators and Viktor Bout himself, this book reveals the true story of the ‘Merchant of Death.’


Cathy Scott-Clark is a London-based investigative reporter, writer and filmmaker.  She has worked with the Sunday TimesInsight Team and The Guardian and has co-authored six books with Adrian Levy, including The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden and The Forever Prisoner: The Full and Searing Account of the Cia's Most Controversial Covert Program.

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