UAE scraps mystery plane of Russian-wanted gunrunner after two decades

For over two decades, the 153-foot, four-jet-engine cargo plane has been a familiar yet mysterious landmark in the emirate, near the Baracuda Beach Resort along E11.

The dismantling of the Ilyushin Il-76, a Soviet-era cargo plane linked to arms smuggler Viktor Bout (infamously known as the “Merchant of Death”) began earlier this week at the old airfield of Umm Al Quwain.

Its demolition was planned in order to make way for a bridge to connect the mainland to its planned $675 million luxury real estate project on an island across a lagoon from where the plane sits.

The abandoned IL-76 was once part of the Soviet Union’s large fleet of Ilyushins, originally built for the USSR military in 1971. When the Ilyushin became too dangerous to fly, Bout came up with a plan to sell the plane to serve as advertising.

Even as workers disassemble the aircraft, Bout is in the news again as Russia has suggested America trade him for US citizens held by Moscow amid its war on Ukraine.

He was convicted in 2011 and is now serving a 25-year sentence in a federal prison in Illinois on charges he conspired to sell millions of dollars of weapons to kill Americans to rebels in Colombia — who were Drug Enforcement Administration agents. He denied the charges.

However, in the years since, Russia has repeatedly floated his name in possible exchanges for American citizens held by Moscow. His prominence and rise in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse has raised suspicions that he had ties to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.


abcnewsKhaleej Times
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