Russia criticises Thai decision to extradite 'Merchant of Death' Viktor Bout to US

Moscow angrily condemns decision by court to extradite alleged Russian arms dealer on terrorism charges.

Russia today angrily condemned a decision by a Thai court to extradite alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the United States, vowing to do everything so he could return to his homeland. Russia's foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, said the decision was "political" and "unjust." In a thinly veiled reference to the United States, he added: "This decision, according to the information that we have, was taken under very strong pressure from the outside. This is sad."

Mr Lavrov, who was on an official visit to Armenia, said Moscow will continue doing all it can to allow Mr Bout to return home. Mr Bout, a former Soviet air force officer, is reputed to be one of the world's most prolific arms dealers. He has allegedly supplied weapons that fueled civil wars in South America, the Middle East and Africa. His clients allegedly included Liberia's Charles Taylor and the Libyan leader Muammar Qadafi, and both sides of the civil war in Angola.

A Thai appeals court today granted a request by the United States to extradite Mr Bout, dubbed the "Merchant of Death", on terrorism charges. * Agencies