Thursday, July 8, 2010

Lawyer Says Swap With Russia Is Expected Soon

Via -

The lawyer for an imprisoned Russian scientist, Igor V. Sutyagin, said on Thursday that she expected him to be freed by the end of the day, probably through a prisoner exchange in Britain, but that his departure would take place under conditions of complete secrecy.


The lawyer, Anna Stavitskaya, said that Mr. Sutyagin had verbally agreed to an exchange during a meeting with Russian officials who he believed were from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or S.V.R., and that Americans had also been present at the meeting.


“If he is free, the United States could be thanked for one thing, for saving a person,” she said. “I am thankful to the United States, if it was the United States that included him on the list. If at last he is freed — not in the way we wanted, because we wanted him to restore his good name, but it is difficult to do it given our judicial system — at least he will be freed in this way,” she said. “If he leaves today, it will happen quietly.”

Mr. Sutyagin’s mother, Svetlana Y. Sutyagina, said that the scientist was allowed a meeting with his wife and daughters at the prison last night at 7 o’clock, and that she expected to hear from him next from Vienna or Britain. There has been no new information Thursday, she said.


It was not clear who, other than Mr. Sutyagin, might be considered for a potential prisoner swap. Ernst Chyorny, executive secretary of the public committee in Defense of Scientists in Moscow, said Mr. Sutyagin had been shown a list of names but could only recall one — Sergei Skripal, a colonel in Russian military intelligence who was sentenced in 2006 to 13 years for spying for Britain.

Citing Russian intelligence sources, Kommersant newspaper identified two additional candidates for exchange: Aleksandr Zaporozhsky, a former S.V.R. agent who has served 7 of an 18-year sentence for espionage; and Aleksandr Sypachev, who was sentenced to eight years in 2002 for spying for the C.I.A.


An exchange would have some advantages for the Obama administration, avoiding costly trials that could be an irritant for months or years in American-Russian relations. But the White House might be reluctant to give up the spy suspects, who were the targets of a decade-long F.B.I. investigation, without getting prisoners that the United States valued in return.


The reports of a pending exchange, like the spy ring itself, seemed to have the accouterments of cold war espionage without the high stakes for national security. The Russian spy suspects were described by American officials as using high-tech methods but acquiring no real secrets. A swap — in Vienna, a favorite rendezvous for 20th-century spies — would serve as a colorful final chapter for the espionage-novel plot.

No American accused of spying is known to be in Russian custody. But Mr. Sutyagin, who is serving a 14-year term, is one of a number of Russian scientists imprisoned after being accused of revealing secrets to the West.

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