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Bout’s extradition will not hurt US-Russia ties: State Dept

The US State Department said Tuesday that Thailand’s extradition of suspected Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout to the United States would not damage ties between Moscow and Washington.

“We understand that on a number of issues… we agree to disagree sometimes. We have tensions that crop up periodically. And we work to manage those,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

“I don’t expect that this will have any impact on our relationship with Russia,” Crowley added.

Bout, dubbed the “Merchant of Death,” was flown out of Thailand Tuesday to face trial in the United States following a long legal battle.

His sudden departure came shortly after the Thai cabinet approved his handover in a move that prompted fresh fury from Moscow, which had vowed to do all it could to bring Bout home.

Russia said his extradition was “illegal” and prompted by unprecedented US pressure.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would support Bout “by all means” and denounced what he described as an “extreme injustice”, adding to speculation that Bout may have knowledge of sensitive information.

The 43-year-old former Soviet air force pilot has been fighting extradition on terrorism charges since his March 2008 arrest after a sting operation in Bangkok involving undercover US agents posing as Colombian FARC rebels.

He was flown out on a US government plane accompanied by officials from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said Colonel Supisarn Bhakdinarunart, commander of Thailand’s Crime Suppression Division.