What Russia gains from US-Russia spy swap
Igor Sutyagin is one of several accused US spies is to be traded later today for Anna Chapman and 10 other alleged Russian agents held in the US. A quick spy swap, say Russian analysts, means Russian spies will be home before they can spill many secrets.
Igor Sutyagin, a former arms control researcher with the Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2004, accused of spying for the West. He has always maintained his innocence, and many of his former colleagues have campaigned for his release through the long years of his imprisonment.Skip to next paragraph
Gallery Top notorious spies
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
On Thursday, Russian news agencies reported that Mr. Sutyagin had been flown to Vienna, in the first stage of what could become a complicated swap for 10 Russians arrested in the US late last month and charged with being Russian agents. Sutyagin was hastily transported to Moscow on Wednesday from the Arctic labor camp where he has resided since his sentencing, allowed to briefly meet close family members, and told that if he signed a confession he would be pardoned by President Dmitry Medvedev and allowed to go into exile in Britain.
"My brother was told that 11 [Russian prisoners] were to be exchanged for 11 people being held in the US," says his brother, Dmitri Sutyagin. "He was very depressed about being required to sign the document recognizing his guilt. But he had no choice about that, and this morning [Thursday], when I saw him, he felt much better about things."
Experts say the impending exchange is being rapidly facilitated in both Washington and Moscow as a means of putting a full stop to the spy scandal that broke out immediately following a successful US visit by Mr. Mevedev.
"The idea of a quick swap is designed to prevent a setback to improving Russian-US relations, something both sides very much want," says Dmitry Suslov, an expert with the Council for Foreign and Defence Policies, a leading Moscow think tank. "This will prevent lengthy court hearings in the US, which would be used by conservatives to ramp up resentment against Russia. If there are no spies, there will be no scandal. A fast swap is a win-win solution for both sides."
According to anonymous security sources cited by a Russia online newspaper, Gazeta.ru, Sutyagin was to be traded later today for Anna Chapman, the most notorious of the 10 alleged Russian agents being held in the US. The Moscow daily Kommersant reported Thursday that other prisoners being held in Russian jails who might be exchanged include:
- Sergei Skripal, a former agent of the Russian GRU military intelligence service sentenced to 13 years in 2006 for spying on behalf of Britain's MI6 agency
- Alexander Zaporozhsky, an ex-member of the SVR foreign intelligence service who was sent to prison for 18 years in 2003 on charges of treason
- Alexander Spryachev, sentenced to 8 years in 2002 for spying for the CIA.