Thursday, July 08, 2010

Do Svidaniya Russian Spies (You Too Anna Chapman?!)? UPDATE: All 10 Plead Guilty

It looks like the rumored deal to swap the 10 Russian spies captured in the US for a US spy that the Russians had incarcerated for six years is underway.
The advocate, Ernst Chyorny, said Mr. [Igor V.] Sutyagin – who has served 10 years of a 14-year sentence for espionage — had called his father from Vienna, where he was met by a British officer. Family members who met with Mr. Sutyagin this week in Moscow said he had been informed he would be transported through Vienna to Britain, where he would be freed. Mr. Sutyagin’s mother, a chemical engineer in a scientific community outside Moscow, rushed home from work when she heard the news.

“So far I don’t know what happened,” said the mother, Svetlana Y. Sutyagina. “I am in a state of suspense.”

The reported exchange was not confirmed by Russian or American officials on Thursday, though anticipation had built throughout the day.

The scientist’s lawyer, Anna Stavitskaya, said 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.

Her comments followed reports from Washington on Wednesday that just days after the F.B.I.’s sensational dismantling of a Russian spy ring, the American and Russian authorities were negotiating an exchange of some or all of the 10 espionage suspects for prisoners held in Russia, including Mr. Sutyagin.
The deal may involve guilty pleas from the 10 Russian spies, including the honey pot Anna Chapman. MSNBC is reporting that this is going to end up being an 11 for 11 swap.
Relatives of Sutyagin, a nuclear researcher serving a 14-year sentence for spying for the United States, said he had told them he was going to be one of 11 convicted spies in Russia who would be freed in exchange for 11 people charged by the United States with being Russian agents.

Speculation swirled around the possible swap even as Russian and U.S. officials refused to directly comment on any possible exchange.
The various Russian spies are being moved to New York for what appears to be final disposition in the case - entering guilty pleas and sentencing. Those spies arrested in Virginia and Boston are being transferred to New York, joining Chapman and the others.

Federal judge Kimba Wood had signed an order yesterday requiring El Diario columnist Vicky Pelaez, Juan Lazaro's wife and fellow codefendant, remain detained until the judge can hear an appeal by the prosecutors over the $250,000 bail package approved last week (the other defendants were denied bail and considered flight risks after an 11th alleged spy jumped bail in Cyprus). It's not clear whether how the pending spy swap will handle Pelaez's situation.

Prosecutors have announced that all 10 alleged Russian spies will plead guilty to charges that they were unregistered agents in the US. That includes the hyperventilating Vicky Pelaez and her husband Juan Lazaro. However, that doesn't mean that all of them want to return to Russia - and that includes the NJ couple that had two kids (a further complication).

The criminal penalty for that charge is up to 5 years in prison.

We now know the true identity of four of the 10 Russian spies.
In entering their guilty pleas, five of the 10 revealed their real Russian names publicly for the first time. The couple known as Richard and Cynthia Murphy gave their names to the court as Vladimir and Lydia Guryev, and the couple who called themselves Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley said their real names were Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. The defendant known as Juan Lazaro said he was Mikhail Anatonoljevich Vasenkov.
The interesting thing about this case is how quickly the feds got guilty pleas and how quickly the defendants admitted to their guilt. That would seemingly indicate that the case against them was quite strong, which makes one wonder just how much more intel could be gleaned from further inquiry. At least one Russian expert thinks that the catch and turnover was too quick to do a thorough debriefing of the spies to get as much intel as possible about tactics and methods.

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