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Russia swaps arrested spies with the United States (WRAPUP)

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The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday that 10 Russian spy suspects in New York are being deported from the United States in exchange for the release of four Russian prisoners convicted of spying for the United States.

The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed on Friday that 10 Russian spy suspects in New York are being deported from the United States in exchange for the release of four Russian prisoners convicted of spying for the United States.

The relevant agreement has been reached between the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency in the general context of improving Russian-U.S. relations, the ministry said in a statement.

All ten spy suspects earlier pleaded guilty in a New York court to failing to register as foreign agents. They also revealed their true identities and "forfeited assets attributable to the criminal offenses," the Justice Department said in a news release.

The alleged Russian spies are expected to leave the United States on Friday and agreed never to return without permission from the attorney general.

Under the exchange deal, Russia has agreed to release four Russian prisoners and their family members for resettlement in the United States.

The Kremlin said on Friday that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had signed a decree on pardoning four individuals imprisoned in Russia for alleged work for Western intelligence agencies.

The pardoned individuals are Alexander Zaporozhsky, Gennady Vasilenko, Sergei Skripal and Igor Sutyagin.

All four have appealed to the Russian president to free them after admitting their crimes against the Russian state, press secretary Natalia Timakova said.

Igor Sutyagin, a Russian arms control and nuclear weapons specialist, was sentenced to 15 years in prison in Archangelsk, northwest Russia, in April 2004 for sharing state secrets with U.S. military intelligence.

Sergei Skripal, a former Russian colonel, was sentenced in 2006 to 13 years in prison for spying for Britain. He had allegedly shared information on dozens of his former colleagues operating in Europe undercover, in particular their secret meeting places, addresses, and passwords.

Gennady Vasilenko, a former KGB agent, was arrested in 1998 on suspicion of spying for the United States. He was released six months later but arrested again in 2005 and sentenced to three years in prison for illegal weapons possession and resistance to authorities while working as a security chief for Russia's NTV television.

Alexander Zaporozhsky, a former colonel in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, was sentenced in 2003 to 18 years in prison for espionage on behalf of the United States.

Russia and the United States have reaffirmed that the spy scandal would not affect "the reset" in bilateral relations.

"The swap deal became possible thanks to a new positive spirit of the Russian-U.S. relations and a high level of understanding and trust between the presidents of the two countries, which no one will be able to undermine," a Kremlin source told RIA Novosti on Friday.

"The diplomatic relations with Russia remain on a positive track and we're in close consultation. We've reset on many issues and a very constructive basis working together as evidenced by President Medvedev's visit here," Mark Toner, an acting spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, told reporters on Thursday.

The U.S. officials also said that the arrest of alleged Russian spies shortly after the visit of President Medvedev to the United States was a coincidence and was forced by the fact that one of the suspects had immediate plans to leave the country.

MOSCOW, July 9 (RIA Novosti)

 

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