History of US-Russia spy swaps

9th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

The United States on Thursday unveiled the terms of a dramatic spy swap with Russia reminiscent of the Cold War, in a bid to end an espionage scandal that threatened to harm relations.

Under the deal, Russia agreed to release four people accused of working for Western intelligence agencies in return for 10 defendants rounded up in an FBI swoop, the Justice Department said.

The 10 all pled guilty to being foreign agents for Moscow and were ordered to be immediately expelled from the United States by a New York judge.

Here are details of some previous spy swaps between the two countries:

-- 1962: THE ABEL/POWERS EXCHANGE: After five years in prison in the United States, one of the most famous Soviet spies, Rudolf Abel, is exchanged at the border between then East and West Germany on February 10, 1962 for American Francis Gary Powers.

A Soviet agent who posed as a photographer in New York and helped smuggle out nuclear secrets during the 1940s and 1950, Abel -- his real name was Vilyam Fisher -- was eventually arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and in 1957 sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Powers, a US pilot carrying out a secret mission for the CIA to photograph Soviet nuclear sites, was shot down near the Urals Mountains city of Sverdlovsk, now called Yekaterinburg in 1960. Powers parachuted out and was captured by the Soviets who convicted him of espionage and threw him in prison.

-- 1979: THE GINZBURG/ENGER/CHERNYAYEV EXCHANGE: Five Soviet dissidents are released from prison on April 27, 1979 and flown to New York in exchange for two Russians convicted of spying in the United States. The dissident group includes Alexander Ginzburg, one of the best known Russian dissidents. The two spies are Valdik Enger and Rudolf Chernyayev, two UN officials, who had been arrested on May 20, 1978 after obtaining secret documents on US anti-submarine warfare.

-- 1986: THE SHCHARANSKY AFFAIR: On February 11, 1986, the Soviet Jewish dissident Anatoly Shcharansky (now Nathan Sharansky), is freed in a spectacular exchange of spies between East and West at the Glienicke bridge in Berlin.

A mathematician, Sharansky first applied for permission to emigrate to Israel in 1973. The request led to his repeated incarceration, often in solitary confinement, in prisons throughout Soviet Russia. Found guilty of "treason, hostile propaganda and espionage" he was sentenced to 13 years in prison and nine years of forced labour in 1978 after an article in the government Izvestya newspaper accused him of being a CIA agent.

Nine years later his wife's high profile campaign for his release finally paid off and he was released.

-- 1986: THE DANILOFF/ZAKHAROV EXCHANGE: On September 29, 1986, the Tass news agency announces the expulsion of US journalist Nicholas Daniloff. A day later Gennady Zakharov, a Soviet official at the United Nations, is ordered to leave the United States within 24 hours, after appearing for less than five minutes before a New York court.

Zakharov had been arrested on August 23 by the FBI in a New York metro as he took delivery of military documents. Moscow had riposted a week later by arresting Daniloff.

This affair sparked a diplomatic crisis between Washington and Moscow and led to tit-for-tat expulsions of each other's diplomats.

© 2010 AFP

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