Russia could 'swap US spy for Bout': report
A former Russian defence ministry official sentenced to 18 years for spying for the United States may be swapped for alleged "Merchant of Death" arms dealer Viktor Bout, Interfax reported Wednesday.
A former defence ministry officer and employee of Russia's Rosatom nuclear agency, Andrei Khlychev was last week given an 18-year sentence by a Moscow court for spying for the United States, the news agency said, quoting a source in law enforcement.
"Currently, the possibility is being considered to swap Andrei Khlychev -- who was sentenced by the Moscow city court to a lengthy prison term -- for one of the Russians imprisoned abroad, possibly Viktor Bout," the source told Interfax.
There was no official confirmation of the report.
Bout's brother Sergei said he was not aware of any such possible plans. "I know nothing about it, although it would be good news," he told Interfax.
Viktor Bout was arrested in a US sting in March 2008 and extradited from Thailand in November after a long legal battle. He is currently being held in a high-security prison in New York.
The law enforcement source told the Russian news agency that Khlychev was accused of passing on classified data related to the work of the Russian nuclear industry.
The Moscow city court hearing into the Khlychev espionage case was held behind closed doors, Interfax said.
Last July, Russia and the United States staged their biggest spy swap since the Cold War, exchanging 10 agents deported by the United States for four freed by Moscow.
© 2011 AFP