Russian expert in spy swap wants to return to Russia
A Russian arms researcher deported from Russia in the dramatic spy swap with Washington broke his silence Thursday, saying he missed his family and wanted to return to Russia from Britain.
"Hello people," Igor Sutyagin said in his first public statement to supporters since being taken out of Russia in the spy swap on July 10.
"I am getting back on my feet, gathering strength, I very much want to see my wife, daughters, parents and my brother (and all of you too!)."
Without divulging any details on his whereabouts or his contacts with the British authorities, he said he dreamt of coming back to his hometown just outside Moscow.
"I am finally going to return to Obninsk and fix the by now completely rickety porch of our little house ... behind the Protva (river)," he said in the statement dated July 20 and forwarded to AFP by his brother, Dmitry Sutyagin, on Thursday.
"A little bit sooner or a little bit later -- I don't know yet but it will certainly happen."
Convicted of spying for the United States, Sutyagin was among the four Russians who were exchanged for 10 Kremlin agents in Vienna about two weeks ago.
Earlier this month he was unexpectedly plucked from his prison in the Russian Far North, transferred to the Lefortovo high-security jail in Moscow and granted a meeting with his family, before being put onto a plane out of Russia.
He later resurfaced at a hotel near London -- initially without money or a British visa and still wearing his prison robes.
Convicted of handing over classified information to a British company that Russia claimed was a CIA cover and sentenced to 15 years in jail, Sutyagin for 11 years denied he was a spy, saying the information came from open sources.
His brother Dmitry said Igor wanted to return to Russia for good.
"Igor was never going to leave Russia. The deportation to Britain was completely unexpected for him," he said in e-mailed comments to AFP.
"So Igor's wish to return to the motherland not as a guest but for good is quite natural for me. I hope nothing will impede the realisation of these plans."
The arms researcher said his release had become possible only thanks to the support he had received at home and abroad and said the same support was now vital for other jailed scientists.
"Do not slacken your efforts to protect the people who still see the sky over their heads through the bars -- they very much need your help," he told his supporters.
Rights activists have said that unlike three other Russians in the swap, Sutyagin was never a spy.
The US government insisted that the four men be freed on humanitarian and other concerns.
© 2010 AFP