Swapped Russian spies held at safehouse: report
The 10 Russian agents deported to Moscow in a sensational spy swap with Washington are being held in a special secret service compound and still being debriefed, a report said Tuesday.
The Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said that the 10, including the glamorous Anna Chapman, were not allowed to leave the compound owned by the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) and were subjected to tests including lie-detectors.
There has been sharp criticism in the Russian press and by ex-agents of their spycraft, notably their use of social networking sites and apparently archaic techniques like invisible ink.
"At the current time the agents are working with specialists," the report quoted a source in the Russian special services as saying
"They are trying to clarify how their cover could have been blown in such situations."
The SVR has refused to give any comment on the 10 agents but the report was the first significant claim of details about the spies' fate to have emerged since their swap for four Russian convicts.
They would be released in the next few weeks, so long as the probe showed that serious errors had not been committed in their work as agents in the United States, the report said
"For clarifying all the details, interviews are being carried out along with different kinds of tests which include lie-detectors," the source told Moskovsky Komsomolets.
"This should not be called an interrogation in the true sense of the word. But if it turns out that serious mistakes were made, spies, employees of the SVR, can be fired."
The report said that mobile phones did not work at the compound and the agents were not allowed to leave. However, they were being supplied with all necessities.
The idea that their cover was blown as a result of "treachery" within the service was also being examined, it added.
Immediately after landing in Moscow on Friday, the 10 were taken to SVR headquarters in Yasenevo outside Moscow but exactly where they were being questioned now was not clear, it said.
The arrest of the agents sparked fears that the espionage scandal could harm improving ties with Washington, but Friday's spy exchange appeared aimed at limiting any damage.
Some of the agents had been working as deep cover "sleepers" for as much as a decade although Chapman -- who has become a tabloid celebrity over the last fortnight, had gone to the United States more recently.
The paper's source meanwhile rubbished US media reports that the arrests of the agents were hastened by a panicked telephone call from Chapman to her father, who is believed to have a background in the Russian special services.
"Agents know what to do in these situations. She would not have turned to her father. At the Russian embassy in the US there is a person in charge of security and other questions," the source said.
© 2010 AFP