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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs