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'Spy' Sutyagin In Britain After U.S.-Russian Swap

  • RFE/RL

Igor Sutyagin appears in a Moscow court during his 2004 trial on espionage charges.

Igor Sutyagin appears in a Moscow court during his 2004 trial on espionage charges.

A Russian arms-control expert involved in a "spy swap" between Russia and the United States has contacted his wife from Britain.

Igor Sutyagin was among the four Russians prisoners accused of spying for the West who were exchanged on July 9 for 10 suspected Russian spies in U.S. custody.

The exchange, which took place at Vienna's airport, was the biggest "spy swap" between the two countries since the Cold War.

"Igor called his wife and said he was in a small British town whose name he doesn't know yet," Sutyagin's lawyer, Anna Stavitskaya, told RFE/RL. "He has his Russian passport with him, as well as a Russian foreign passport that has no British visa, so he can't really go out. The formalities will be worked out as soon as Monday."

Sutyagin's brother Dmitry told the AFP new agency that Sutyagin was at a hotel in a small town near London together with another of the four swapped Russian prisoners.

Dmitry Sutyagin said he did not know the name of the second man.

Until Sutyagin's phone call today, his family had been without news since the exchange and had been deeply worried about his fate.

The swap took place at Vienna's airport, where the two airplanes involved sat side-by-side on the tarmac for an hour and a half before flying off.

The Russian plane carrying the 10 alleged Russian agents arrested in the United States last month landed in Moscow on the afternoon of June 9. An 11th suspected member of the ring has fled authorities in Cyprus after being released on bail.

The U.S. jet landed in Washington later with two of the four Russians jailed in Russia for alleged contact with Western intelligence agencies on board. The other two, including Sutyagin, were dropped off at a military airport in central Britain.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev then reportedly pardoned the four.

It is still unclear whether Sutyagin plans to stay in Britain, where his brother says he has no friends or acquaintances.

The 45-year-old researcher has repeatedly denied spying on Russia, saying the information he released was available through open sources.

He told relatives ahead of the exchange that he was reluctant to leave his homeland. He said he was forced to sign a confession as part of the swap deal.

Sutyagin's lawyer, Anna Stavitskaya, has said he is suffering from severe psychological problems as a result of incarceration in a far-north prison camp since 2005.

The other three prisoners released by Moscow in the exchange are believed to be Aleksandr Zaporozhsky and Sergei Skripal, also convicted of spying for the West, and Gennady Vasilenko, who is reported to have been jailed for illegal arms possession.

written by Claire Bigg. RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report