Five alleged Russian spies sent to New York court
US judges in two separate courts on Wednesday transferred the cases of five people accused of being undercover Russian spies to a New York court, judicial officials said.
The change of venue for the espionage cases came amid rumors of a possible exchange of spies between Washington and Moscow.
In Virginia, Judge Thomas Rawles Jones ordered that three cases be removed from Wednesday's docket and said the accused must be transported "promptly to the Southern District of New York for further proceedings."
The three alleged spies -- Mikhail Kutzik, Natalia Pereverzeva and Mikhail Semenko -- had been due to appear in the Alexandria court for a "probable cause" hearing at which the prosecutor was to have laid out the outlines of the court's case.
Meanwhile, a judge in Boston, Massachusetts ordered two alleged members of the same Russian spy ring, Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, be sent "promptly" to New York to face charges, an official said Wednesdsay, adding the defendents requested the move.
All five defendants were part of an alleged "deep cover" spy ring exposed on June 27 in an FBI swoop that recalled shadowy Cold War hostilities and threatened to upset efforts to reset ties between the superpowers.
Both governments have said the espionage case was not likely to up-end thawing ties between the countries.
But they both also have a stake in avoiding prolonged court battles which could expose sensitive information to a global media glare.
© 2010 AFP