News / USA

    Russia, US, Swap Prisoners in Spy Case

    Multimedia

    Audio
    Gabe Joselow

    Russia and the United States have conducted a spy exchange at an airport in Vienna, Austria. Russia swapped four prisoners for 10 members of an alleged Russian spy ring operating in the U.S.

    The exchange of prisoners between the United States and Russia is expected to bring an end to a weeks-long espionage scandal that fascinated the media, but was downplayed by both governments.

    Russia released four Russian citizens already serving prison sentences on charges of spying for the West. Their release was announced soon after the United States deported 10 suspected Russian agents detained last month and sentenced in a New York court.

    Although the case is reminiscent of episodes from the Cold War, Russia hailed the exchange as a positive development. The foreign ministry said "the action was taken in the general context of improved Russian-U.S. relations."

    Andrei Koztunof of the New Eurasia Foundation in Moscow says both countries essentially agreed not to make it a major issue.

    "Absolutely I think that under different circumstances they could have turned it into a big issue in their relationship, and we could have seen mutual accusation and a lot of hysteria on both sides," says Koztunof. "But the current mode of handling the issue suggests that neither side is interested in starting a fight about this spy exchange."

    One of the most high-profile prisoners involved in the exchange is Russian arms expert Igor Sutyagin. He was serving a 15 year prison sentence after being convicted of passing classified information to the United States.

    Russian President Dmitri Medvedev pardoned Sutyagin and three other convicted spies after they signed documents admitting their guilt.

    But his lawyer Anna Stavitskaya tells VOA that her client had little choice but to sign the document, since fighting for his freedom in court did not work.

    She says his case shows a lot of the problems with the Russian legal system. He had defended himself in court for years and had asked for a presidential pardon. "Suddenly this spy scandal happens, and everything is resolved in a day," she adds.

    Russian media report the other prisoners being released by Moscow are Sergei Skripal; who worked for Russia's military intelligence service; Aleksandr Zaporozhsky, a former foreign intelligence agent; and Gennadi Vasilenko, a former K.G.B. officer.

    The U.S. State Department says several of the prisoners were in poor health.

    The case gained enormous media attention in the United States and Russia. But, despite the excitement about the case, members of the alleged Russian spy ring did not seem to have accomplished anything. They were charged only with conspiring to act as unregistered foreign agents.

    Andrei Kutzonof of New Eurasia does not think they will receive too much publicity back in Russia.

    "It's hard to believe that they will be treated like heroes. Indeed, it's not clear what they have accomplished, but I think that it would be fair to assume that they haven't accomplished a lot," Kutzonof adds. "And some of their statements might be an embarrassment to the Russian intelligence."

    In accordance with their plea agreement, the suspects cannot return to the United States without special authorization. They also are barred from making any money in the United States by selling their stories of life undercover.

    An eleventh member of the suspected Russian spy ring was detained in Cyprus, but disappeared after being released on bail.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora