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Former Russian Colonel Convicted in Absentia for Exposing Spy Ring

This drawing dated June 28, 2010 shows five of the 10 arrested Russian spy suspects in a New York courtroom.

A former Russian Intelligence officer has been convicted and sentenced in absentia in Moscow.

A Moscow military court gave former army Colonel Alexander Poteyev a 20-year prison term for treason and another five years for desertion.

Russian officials say it is doubtful Poteyev will serve any time because they believe he fled to the United States and is hiding there.


The Kremlin claims the former security agent betrayed Russia by helping Washington identify 10 Russian sleeper agents in the United States. Officials say the agents’ main job was to blend in with young professionals, and get hired at top government agencies and private firms that deal with advanced technologies and sensitive data.

The United States claims the agents gathered sensitive information on topics such as nuclear weapons and sent it back to the Kremlin.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called Poteyev a pig who would regret his actions a thousand times over. He addressed Poteyev’s actions on the state’s English-language television channel, Russia Today.

"This is the result of a sell-out," Putin said. "Sell-outs always come to no good. They end up in a ditch either drunk or drugged. The other day some such traitor kicked the bucket exactly like that, abroad."

Intelligence failure

Many security analysts say the cells detection delivered a huge blow to Russia’s foreign intelligence efforts by revealing weaknesses in its surveillance program that had been the pride of the Kremlin since Soviet times.

Washington announced the arrest of the agents just days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had visited with Barak Obama in Washington. Both sides had claimed they had made headway in bilateral relations.

The 10 agents, including red-head Anna Chapman, were deported to Moscow last summer in exchange for four suspected U.S. agents in Russia. The trade was the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.