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

Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

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.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid