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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid