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Russia, Estonia Exchange Two Men Held for Espionage

FILE - Eston Kohver of Estonia stands behind bars in Pskov, Russia, Sept. 17, 2014.

Russia and Estonia exchanged two men facing long prison terms for espionage in a cold-war style swap Saturday.

Russia released Eston Kohver, an Estonian security officer detained last year, in exchange for Alexei Dressen, a former Estonian official convicted of treason for passing state secrets to Moscow.

The swap took place on a bridge over the Piusa River that separates Russia's western Pskov region and Estonia's Polva county, after Russian President Vladimir Putin wrote a pardon for Kohver and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves pardoned Dressen.

Russia sentenced Kohver in August to 15 years' hard labor, while Estonia convicted Dressen in 2012 and sentenced him to 16 years in prison.

Estonia had maintained that Kohver was abducted in September 2014 and was in custody in a Moscow prison. Russia had said he was detained on its side of the border with Estonia.

Estonian authorities arrested Dressen at Tallinn airport with his wife in February 2012, just before she was to board a flight to Moscow carrying classified documents, according to prosecutors.

Russia is still holding other suspected spies, including Lithuanian nationals.