US, Russia prisoner swap could be imminent: report

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Lawyers for the 10 people accused of belonging to a Russian spy ring said Washington and Moscow were discussing a prisoner swap that could come as early as Thursday as a way out of the sticky case, The New York Times reported late Wednesday.

"I feel our discussions will probably be resolved by tomorrow one way or another," Robert Baum, a lawyer for Anna Chapman, one of the suspects, told the daily after speaking with US prosecutors and Russian officials.

Another defense lawyer who remained anonymous told the newspaper that some and possibly all 10 defendants would plead guilty as part of the deal when they appear in federal court for arraignment on Thursday.

US officials Wednesday laid formal charges against 11 alleged members of a Kremlin spy ring -- one of the suspects was arrested in Cyprus.

Justices ordered two suspects detained in Boston and three in the Washington area to be transferred to New York, where they will join five already there.

All 10 were to appear Thursday before a judge in federal court, the US prosecutor's office for Manhattan announced.

The alleged Russian "deep cover" sleeper agents were arrested on June 27 in an FBI swoop that recalled shadowy Cold War hostilities and threatened to upset efforts to reset ties between the superpowers.

An 11th suspect, accused Kremlin paymaster Christopher Metsos, was arrested in Cyprus the following day but freed on bail and subsequently vanished.

They are all accused of "conspiring to act as secret agents in the United States on behalf of the Russian Federation," the formal indictment said, adding that nine are charged with "conspiracy to commit money laundering."

© 2010 AFP

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