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8 Jul, 2010 11:56

Spying scientist Sutyagin allegedly exchanged for femme-fatale Chapman

Russia and the US have agreed to a spy swap – alleged femme-fatale spy Anna Chapman is returning home in exchange for Russian scientist Igor Sutyagin, convicted of espionage, Russian media reports.

According to Sutyagin’s lawyer Anna Stavitskaya, Sutyagin has already arrived in Vienna, reports RIA Novosti news agency.

The most famous of the alleged Russian spies detained in the US last week, Anna Chapman is reportedly returning to her homeland on Thursday night, Gazeta.ru reports, citing unnamed sources in diplomatic circles.

The deal was reportedly sealed at a meeting between Russia’s Ambassador to the US Sergey Kislyak and Under-Secretary of State Williams Burns.

Chapman will be transferred to Moscow incognito on Thursday night, the website reports. Gazeta.ru also writes that the exchange will not be announced officially.

Former MI5 officer Annie Machon said that for a native of Russia convicted of betraying his homeland, being sent to the US entails a number of dramatic changes.

They will be cut off from their family and friends,” Machon said. “Yes, they will have their freedom to a certain extent, but it is going to be a very different experience for them than it is for the alleged spy ring going to Russia.”

The press service for Russia’s Foreign Ministry rejected to make any comments on the matter.

Aleksander Khinshtein, member of the State Duma, suggested that the fact that Sutyagin appears to be part of a possible swap proves that he had been engaged in espionage for the US.

International authorities and special forces of the US are ready to accept Sutyagin in exchange for those accused of working for Russia,” Khinshtein said. “It means that Sutyagin is not a prisoner of conscience, but actually a spy.”

On the contrary, Andrew Kuchins from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told RT he knew Igor Sutyagin back in the 1990s, and doesn’t believe he is guilty.

“This is a case where somebody was working with non-classified sources but came to conclusions which in fact were classified,” he said. “And it is not unheard of, it happens. So personally, I believe that he was wrongfully imprisoned, but cases like this are quite murky.”

Meanwhile, Gary Powers, Jr., son of US pilot Francis Gary Powers and founder of the Cold War Museum in Northern Virginia, gave an insight into what could happen next for the swapped agents based on his own family’s experience.

“There will be a media frenzy; people will want to interview them and talk with them and get their side of the story,” he said. “They will become public figures. They will no longer have a private life.”

“The children of these folks will have to adjust to having a recognizable parent that is labeled as a spy,” Powers added.