UAE dismantles Gunner plane that Russia wants for Americans

UMM AL-QUWAIN, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The hulking Soviet-era freighter has sat in the scorching sun for decades in a remote corner of the United Arab Emirates, its four jet engines after years of service remain silent. The Russian gunman was dubbed the “Death Merchant”.

However, the Ilyushin Il-76, tied to the arms smuggler Viktor Bout, was not destroyed by missiles or artillery fire, but was destined to be scrapped for use in this emirate made up of seven emirates. A stronger force in the formed Commonwealth gives way: luxury real estate.

The emirate of Umm al-Quwain plans to spend $675 million to develop an island on an island separated by a lagoon from the decommissioned airport where Bout’s plane is based.

Yet even as workers were dismantling the plane’s wings, his legacy lives on – Bout is in the news again as Russia suggests the US trade him for US citizens that Moscow is holding in its war on Ukraine.

“To this day I didn’t realize the plane was there,” said Stephen Braun, author of a book about the gunman called “Death Merchant.” “But the irony is that this, this rubbish, or whatever it’s using now, is inherently much longer than Victor Booth’s business.”

For drinkers from Dubai, located about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of the curved coast of the Persian Gulf, Ilyushin Il-76’s iconic bulging nose represents a landmark for low-cost liquor stores at the Emirate’s Barracuda Beach Resort. So did the large green letters on the Ilyushin as another hotel’s aviation billboard for the past 20+ years.

Ilyushin’s tail number — and two other tail numbers on the jet engine air intake cover — are linked to Bout-operated airlines that used to fly between Africa, Europe and the Middle East. Soviet-era ammunition, Kalashnikov rifles, rockets and other destructive tools were transported on Bout’s passenger planes to war zones including Afghanistan, Angola and Liberia. The Ilyushin aircraft were designed to land in such harsh conditions.

Bout used the then-indebted neighbouring emirate of Dubai, Sharjah, as the base for the bulk of his fleet, even though the planes were registered in third countries — such as the Central African Republic-flagged Ilyushin.

But when the Ilyushin plane became too dangerous for even Boot’s intrepid pilots to fly, he came up with a plan to sell the plane as an advertisement, Braun said. After persuading a pilot to fly the plane using only three of its four engines, the plane narrowly made its way into Umm al-Quwain.

“It was a flashpoint, but they managed to go down on a highway outside Sharjah,” said Braun, a former investigative reporter and editor at The Associated Press. So I think they’re from the deal. “

As a result, the Ilyushin sat on its last few months as Umm Al Quwain prepared to build a bridge to connect the mainland with the planned development on the island of Sinya. The work officially began in April, according to satellite photos from Planet Labs PBC analyzed by the Associated Press.

Umm al-Quwain has no oil or gas of its own, and as the UAE’s least populous emirate, it has not been as economically successful as Dubai or the energy-rich capital Abu Dhabi. But the country’s growing demand for real estate Whether the emirate thinks its new development can breathe new life into an otherwise dormant emirate.

An Associated Press reporter who visited the site on Friday saw red ropes marking the bridge’s future path, and an estimated 84 workers were involved in building the road through the former airport land. Ilyushin’s four jet engines lay on the sand, the wings of the large plane cut from the fuselage.

The site’s contractor declined to speak to reporters, referring the issue to the court of Sheikh Saud bin Rashid Al Mualla, ruler of Umm al-Quwain. An email sent to the government office was not immediately confirmed.

Bout, who was extradited from Thailand, was convicted in 2011 and is currently serving 25 years in a federal prison in Illinois on charges of conspiring to sell millions of dollars in weapons to rebels in Colombia to kill Americans — the rebels Jun is actually an agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration. He denies the allegations.

In the years since, however, Russia has repeatedly mentioned his name in possible exchanges with U.S. citizens held by Moscow. His popularity and rise after the collapse of the Soviet Union led Braun and other investigators to suspect Butt had ties to Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency.

As recently as May 13, Russia’s TASS news agency quoted an anonymous official as saying that Bout could be traded for Britney Greener, A WNBA All-Star detained for allegedly possessing marijuana derivatives before Russia’s war against UkraineAlso detained was Paul Whelan, director of corporate security, He was sentenced to 16 years in prison on espionage charges that his family and the U.S. government say are false.

In April, an unexpected exchange saw Marine Corps Veteran Trevor Reed Released by Moscow in Exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenkoa Russian pilot serving 20 years in prison for conspiring to smuggle cocaine into the United States.

For Boot, whose shootout has fueled a global war, the estimated release date is 2029.

“The Russians want him back, and the Biden administration obviously wants Paul Whelan back. They want Britney Greener back. But again, that’s the problem,” Braun said. “You know, the weapons he shipped were partly and certainly indirectly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of people in Africa and Afghanistan. … So you want a reward?”

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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.



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