Fri, Jul 09, 2010 - Page 6 News List

US-Russia spy swap appears to be imminent

GLIENICKE MEMORIESMore names have reportedly been added to the list of people Moscow is willing to exchange for the 10 alleged spies held by Washington

AGENCIES , MOSCOW

Special riot police secured the perimeter of Moscow’s Lefortovo prison yesterday and a gaggle of TV cameras and photographers jostled for the best position as the world braced for what could be largest spy swap since the Cold War.

A convoy of armored vehicles arrived in the morning at the prison, thought to be the central gathering point for people convicted of spying for the West, including nuclear researcher Igor Sutyagin, serving a 14-year sentence for spying for the US.

Sutyagin’s brother and lawyer say he was transferred to Lefortovo earlier this week to take part in the swap. They said Sutyagin saw a list of 11 prisoners in Russia who are being traded for 10 people arrested in the US for being unregistered Russian agents.

Officials in neither country would confirm an exchange was planned. But the machinations — including a meeting in Washington between US officials and the Russian ambassador on Wednesday — had all the hallmarks as the two former Cold War antagonists moved to tamp down tensions stirred by the US arrests.

“A swap seems very much on the cards. There is political will on both sides, and actually by even moving it as far as they have, Moscow has de facto acknowledged that these guys were spies,” intelligence analyst Pavel Felgenhauer said.

Five suspects charged with spying in the US were ordered to New York on Wednesday, joining five others already behind bars there, after Sutyagin spilled the news of the swap from his penal colony near the Arctic Circle.

Dmitry Sutyagin said his brother was told he was among a dozen convicted spies who were to be exchanged for Russians arrested by the FBI. He said his brother could be taken to Vienna, then London, as early as yesterday.

Defense lawyers in Moscow and New York have expressed confidence that their clients’ fates would be settled very soon.

In a US federal indictment unsealed on Wednesday, the 10 suspects in New York and an 11th person, who was released on bail by a court in Cyprus and is now a fugitive, were formally charged. The indictment charged all of them with conspiring to act as secret agents and charged nine of them with conspiracy to commit money laundering. It demanded that those accused of money laundering return any assets used in the offense.

Sutyagin, who worked as an arms control and military analyst at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies, a Moscow think tank, was arrested in 1999 and convicted in 2004 on charges of passing information on nuclear submarines and other weapons to a British firm that Moscow claimed was a CIA cover.

He has always denied that he was spying, saying the information he provided was available from open sources. Family and friends say he does not want to leave in a spy swap, given that he had steadfastly denied engaging in espionage, but he has no choice.

The Kommersant daily said the list of prisoners who would form part of the swap included Sergei Skripal, a former military intelligence colonel sentenced in 2006 to 13 years jail on charges of spying for Britain and former Foreign Intelligence Service employee Alexander Zaporozhsky, who was jailed for 18 years for espionage in 2003.

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