Russian scientist in ’spy swap’ flown to Vienna (Second Lead)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

MOSCOW/VIENNA - A Russian scientist convicted of giving nuclear secrets to the US reportedly arrived in Vienna Thursday as part of a purported spy-swap arrangement between the two former Cold War adversaries, media reports said.

Igor Sutyagin, 45, who was convicted in 2004 of espionage, is believed to be on his way to London to be exchanged for one or more of 10 people charged in late June with spying for Russia in the US.

The Interfax news agency in Moscow quoted human rights activist Ernst Chyorny, a close friend of Sutyagin’s family, as saying that he had arrived in the Austrian capital, which during the Cold War had been a frequent exchange point between the two superpowers.

Austrian officials and the Russian and US embassies in Vienna would not confirm the reports.

The interior and foreign ministries in Vienna also said that they were not aware of such an exchange plan.

“But it is in the nature of intelligence services that they act unnoticed,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal said.

The US embassy in Vienna said there would be no comment on intelligence matters.

In the US, the 10 espionage suspects are due to appear before a federal judge later Thursday for arraignment.

Five of the Russian suspects were transferred Wednesday from Boston and Virginia to New York, the Los Angeles Times reported, where they are to join the five New York-based suspects.

A lawyer for one of the highest-profile of the 10, Anna Chapman, appeared to hint at an exchange in an interview given to the New York Times Wednesday.

“I feel our discussions will probably be resolved by tomorrow one way or another,” Robert Baum said.

The Russian newspaper Kommersant also reported that other individuals convicted of espionage and currently imprisoned in Russia could be part of a swap deal.

The paper named exposed double-agents Alexander Zaporozhsky and Alexander Sypachev as those likely to be involved.

Double agent Sergei Skripal, who was sentenced to 13 years in a Russian prison in 2006, is also to be swapped, Moscow-based media outlets have reported.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the 10 suspects in late June, in a spectacular blow to what is believed to have been a Russian spy ring. An eleventh suspect disappeared last week after posting bail in Cyprus.

Officials in Moscow and Washington have tried to limit the effect of the affair on the recently improved bilateral relations.

Filed under: Diplomacy

Tags: ,
will not be displayed