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Viktor Bout sentence: Russia slams US jail term for 'Merchant of Death'

Russia has condemned the US jail term given to arms dealer Viktor Bout and vowed to seek his repatriation.

Bout was sentenced yesterday to 25 years in prison, five months after a US court convicted him of attempting to sell weapons to Colombian rebels who planned to attack Americans.

"The Russian Foreign Ministry will take whatever action necessary to repatriate Viktor Bout back to his motherland by any means within international law," it said in a statement cited by RIA Novosti. "This issue will, without doubt, be one of our top priorities in Russian-American relations."

A spokesman called the sentence "absolutely unacceptable, biased and not objective," Russia Today reported. Bout's conviction and sentencing was politically motivated and lacked legitimate evidence, according to the ministry's human rights envoy, Konstantin Dolgov.

He accused US authorities of "kidnapping" Bout via a sting operation in Thailand, and subjecting him to "unlawful physical and psychological pressure" during his detention. 

The foreign ministry also condemned what it called "an absolutely unacceptable campaign by the American media" to influence the outcome of the case.  

"It definitely raises doubts about the grounds that the prosecution is build on and the verdict's justice," Dolgov said, claiming Bout's trial revealed "serious problems with the American judiciary."

Bout's attorney, Albert Dayan, has said he will appeal the conviction. 

Prosecutors told the court that Bout had agreed to sell surface-to-missiles and assault rifles to people he believed to represent the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), but who were actually US informants, the BBC reported. Having been told they would be used to attack American pilots, Bout reportedly replied: "We have the same enemy."

He denies the allegations.

According to Russia Today, Moscow has drawn up a list of US citizens who will be barred from Russia for their role in Bout's case.

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