ROAR: Russian “spies” are coming and leaving

Some participants of the famous spy swap deal are said to be willing to leave the countries where they have landed in an intricate situation.

The Wall Street Journal wrote on August 7 that Juan Lazaro, whose real name is said to be Mikhail Vasenkov, wanted to go to Peru using his Peruvian passport. Citing lawyer Genesis Peduto, the paper said Vasenkov wanted to return to Peru with his wife Vicky Pelaez and “rebuild their lives as the Lazaros.”

Vasenkov allegedly said he wanted to be where it would be easier to see his son. “He says he’s Juan Lazaro and he’s not from Russia and doesn’t speak Russian,” the lawyer told the paper.

Pelaez is a former columnist for a Spanish-language New York City newspaper, and many think she may not have been fully aware of her husband’s alleged secret activities.

Commenting on media reports that Vasenkov wants to go to Peru, the Moscow embassy of the South American country said it had no information on the issue. “We have no such information at the moment,” the Peruvian diplomatic mission in Russia told Interfax on August 10.

The Peruvian foreign minister, Jose Antonio Garcia, said on July 30 that Pelaez was free to return to her homeland, where she is not accused of breaking any laws. The minister added that her husband could face criminal charges for lying on his citizenship application more than 30 years ago. But the law he allegedly broke has a 10-year statute of limitations.

Earlier, Russian arms researcher Igor Sutyagin, one of four Russians exchanged in the spy swap deal said he planned to return to Russia. “I’m going to return to Obninsk and fix the rickety porch of our house,” Ekho Moskvy radio quoted him as saying. Sutyagin currently lives in Britain, and the exact terms of Sutyagin’s return are unclear.

Media have not forgotten the names of other members of “the spy cell” in the US. “Femme fatale” Anna Chapman rejected a deal offered by MI6 in July to give information about “Russian illegals” in Britain and stay in London in return. She allegedly told intelligence officers at Vienna airport she wished to return to Russia, a source close to MI6 told the Sunday Express.

Chapman previously held British citizenship following a 2002 marriage to a British man, Alex Chapman. She was stripped of that citizenship in June following the spy scandal in the US. The British authorities explained their move as being in “the public interest.”

After Chapman was detained in the US, the British special services started to check her activities in the UK, but have not accused her of illegal activities.

Chapman’s decision to reject the alleged MI6 offer fits well the image of “a Russian Bond girl,” believes social psychologist Yekaterina Izmailova. “She is not simply clever, but she is also incapable of betrayal.”

Probably, her behavior was motivated by “the thought of preserving her own image,” the psychologist told Actualcomment.ru. “But I think that the temptation was fairly big – to return the British citizenship and live in England legally. However, it would not be easy to live with a stained conscience even in one of the world’s best capitals.”

As the spy scandal is fading away, many observers in Russia still doubt that the alleged secret agents were spies at all. In this regard, Dengi (Money) weekly noted that the Russian authorities had not assessed the activities of “the agents” publicly and did not reward them.

In the US, the expelled Russians were not formally charged with espionage, Andrey Manoylo, editor-in-chief of Razvedka (Intelligence) magazine, told the weekly. He was also surprised by the number of those detained, noting that “too many” people belonged to one spy cell.

However, the fact that the alleged spies were swapped for Russian citizens accused of espionage for the US may perplex many, the weekly said. The practice of “an adequate answer” assumes that ten US citizens constantly living in Russia could be declared spies and offered for a swap, it noted.

“Just this kind of hysteria was expected from Russia,” the weekly said, adding that Moscow took a different step. “Ten of our innocent citizens were accused without guilt, and they had to be defended,” Manoylo said. “In these conditions, the Russian Foreign Ministry… simply ransoms citizens taken hostages for real spies.”

Russia “did not take hostages” in return, and in the face of the international community “showed an act of humanism,” the analyst added. “Such inadequate answer to the provocation seriously improved Russia’s image,” he noted.

However, Manoylo added that “not all political dividends have been received yet from this story and people will be returning to it.”

For the state to ransom its citizens does not mean to recognize that that they have been involved in spy activities, Dengi said. “It is interesting that no Russian special service has recognized them as its agents.

From the formal point of view, even the Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s statement or joint singing the song about Motherland could not be considered such recognition, it noted. The premier said in July he had met with the returned spies and sang with them the song “Where does the Motherland start.”

Sergey Borisov,
Russian Opinion and Analysis Review, RT