US Deports Russian Spies in Swap

The largest spy swap between the United States and Russia since the Cold War has been carried out as expected. US authorities deported 10 Russian spies on Thursday after all of them pleaded guilty to spying for Moscow in exchange for four people convicted of working for the West.

The US said four of the ten Russian spies, who were the subject of a decade-long FBI investigation, were already sickly, necessitating the quick spy swap. Security officials also did not see any benefits for the US by keeping the spies in jail for a long time. In return, the US was able to free convicted operatives who have already served time in Russian jails. “This sends a powerful signal to people who cooperate with us that we will stay loyal to you,” former CIA official Peter Earnest said.

One of those who were released by Russia as part of the swap was Alexander Zaporozhsky, a former military colonel who helped the US capture Russian operatives Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames in 2001 and 1994, respectively. The other three who were released to US authorities were Gennady Vasilenko, Sergei Skripal, and Igor Sutyagin. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev pardoned the four Western spies after they signed their confessions.

Negotiations for the spy swap started on Monday with US officials traveling to Russia to secure the freedom of the Western spies. The same process was followed in the US, where Russian officials flew in to negotiate with the FBI.