A U.S. judge has ordered 10 suspects in a Russian spy ring deported as part of a swap between the United States and Russia. Judge Kimba Wood handed down her order in New York City moments after all 10 pleaded guilty in what a federal prosecutor called a plea bargain. U.S. Justice Department officials say that in exchange for the 10, Russia will free four people that U.S. officials say were jailed for alleged contacts with Western intelligence. The four have not been identified. But Justice Department officials say three were convicted of treason. Earlier Thursday, Russian nuclear scientist Igor Sutyagin reportedly left a Moscow jail for Vienna, on his way to London.
The arrest of 10 Russians accused of spying surprised many people here in the United States, and in Russia. So many at one time. Now, they have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to act as unregistered agents of a foreign country.
This is what one of their attorneys had to say.
"Initially, the decision to plead guilty was a very difficult one, and as I mentioned, involved numerous factors," said Robert Baum, Anna Chapman's attorney.
Shift now to halfway around the world and the focus on Russian scientist Igor Sutyagin. He was convicted six years ago of spying for the U.S. His brother says American officials sought his release.
"From Igor's conversation with a general, it became clear that this question was being solved on the highest level, most likely with the involvement of Russian and U.S. presidents," said Igor Sutyagin' s brother, Dmitry.
One of the 10 Russians, Anna Chapman, captured the attention of many Americans with her looks and stories of her New York party lifestyle. Her attorney and her mother expect Chapman back in Moscow on Friday.
"She didn't want to do anything bad, but she has got her parents into trouble, caused problems for the people with whom she worked and for her friends," said Anna Chapman's mother, Irina Kushchenko.
U.S. authorities say the Russians mostly lived and worked quietly in the United States for years - some raising children - while trying to gather information on U.S. nuclear weapons and politics for Russian intelligence.
Former CIA agent Bob Baer and others in the intelligence community say they are shocked at the Russians' clandestine activities.
"The Cold War is over," said Bob Baer. "The Russians may not know it, but it's over. We are on the same side. The fact that the FBI got in their communications is extraordinary, or to actually meet them and pretend to be Russians. They were completely and totally compromised and this is going to cause an enormous scandal in Moscow."
The last time Washington and Moscow publicly swapped prisoners was on this Berlin bridge in 1986. Anatoly Sharansky, a famous Soviet dissident, and three other prisoners were exchanged for communist spies detained in the West.