Saturday, July 10, 2010
US, Russia stage Cold War airport spy wrap
July 09 2010 at 07:23PM Get IOL on your
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By Simon Morgan
Vienna - Russia and the United States on Friday played out their biggest spy swap since the Cold War at Vienna airport, exchanging 10 agents deported by US authorities for four freed by Russia in a perfectly choreographed operation.
Special Russian and US flights brought the spies to the Austrian capital, parked next to each other on the runway, then took off within 15 minutes of each other after making the exchange that kept a thaw in US-Russian ties on track.
A government jet carrying the 10 Russian spies, including the glamorous Anna Chapman, took them back to Moscow's Domodedovo airport, officials said. A Russian intelligence services source said they returned "to the motherland".
Pictures broadcast on Russian state television showed the agents being whisked away from the Domodedovo airport tarmac to an unknown location in two minivans that had parked next to the aircraft.
The American plane, meanwhile, made a brief stop at the Brize Norton air base in central England before taking off again, British media reported.
Vienna, near the old Iron Curtain frontier, has not seen such drama since the Cold War, when it was a traditional venue for espionage rivalry between the two superpowers.
The 10 members of a Russian spy ring caught in the United States were taken from New York on the US plane which came to a halt next to a Russian Emergency Situations Ministry jet carrying the four Russians jailed for giving secrets to the West.
Covered steps placed over the main doors to the two airliners hid the exchange from media gathered at Vienna airport hoping for a sight of Chapman and a top Russian armaments expert who were among the group.
Moscow confirmed that a deal had been agreed with Washington aiming to end the spy scandal.
The Russian foreign ministry said the bargain involved the "return to Russia of 10 Russian citizens accused in the United States, along with the simultaneous transfer to the United States of four individuals previously condemned in Russia."
The United States sent back the 10 Kremlin agents late Thursday after they pleaded guilty in a New York court to acting as illegal agents for Moscow. They were immediately expelled.
The four released by Russia included Igor Sutyagin, who was convicted in 2004 of handing over classified information to a British company that Russia claimed was a CIA cover. He was serving a 15-year jail term.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pardoned the four on Thursday after they signed documents admitting they had spied.
The case threatened to set back improving Russia-US relations but the Russian foreign ministry said its outcome showed that the "reset" spearheaded by US President Barack Obama and Medvedev was working.
Comments by Sonny
One of the quickest "Spy Trade-off's" in USA - Russia history!
Who did the Yanks get for the Russian "Sleepers?"
Now you can see why 'social Blog theft' is so rife!
We have all been victims!