A plane from New York and plane from Moscow landed in Vienna today, exchanged passengers, and took off again. Thus ended the US and Russia's largest swap of accused spies since the days of the Cold War. The World's Laura Lynch reports from London.
MARCO WERMAN: From Public Radio International, this is The World. A co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI, and WGBH Boston. It's Friday, July 9th. I'm Marco Werman. Today, the biggest spy swap with Russia since the end of the Cold War is completed. The US may have gotten the short end of the deal.
EDWARD LUCAS: The Americans had the equivalent of ten freshly caught salmon and have got in exchange from Russia four rather elderly tins.
WERMAN: Also, Italian investigators often rely on phone taps, maybe too often.
SERGIO ROMANO: Wiretapping has replaced old fashioned police inquiries.
WERMAN: And an octopus picks the winner of the World Cup. So far, he's been on the money every time. I'm Marco Werman and this is The World. The whole thing took less than two hours. Today at an airport in Vienna, the US and Russia completed their largest swap of accused spies since the days of the Cold War. The US handed off ten men and women. All pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to act as unregistered foreign agents. And Russia passed on four men who'd been imprisoned there. The World's Laura Lynch reports from London.
LAURA LYNCH: The careful choreography of a Cold War era prisoner exchange began as an American charter plane touched down in Vienna. A Russian jet landed soon after. Sitting on the tarmac, wings tip to tip, the swap started and finished within 90 minutes. And the planes were off again. With no official statement from the Kremlin, this is how Russia's English-language channel reported what happened next.
FEMALE SPEAKER: The plane carrying ten Russian agents deported from the US has landed in Moscow. You can see that plane right now in these live pictures from Moscow's Domodedovo Airport.
LYNCH: The American plane flew on to a British military airbase. It's believed two of the four prisoners from Russia got off there, before the plane took off once more en route to Washington. For the ten men and women who returned to Moscow, there'll likely be extensive debriefings. Nikolai Zlobin, the director for Russian programs at the World Security Institute in Washington says there will probably be plenty of criticism too.
NIKOLAI ZLOBIN: You know Russians in general are very proud of their Secret Service. They believe it's a brave, strong, serious, capable of doing things people. And those people, now you know, they don't look anything like that. Nobody will take them seriously first of all because they look like losers and I know everybody in Russia think that they are unsuccessful spies who didn't really defend the image of Russian Secret Service.
LYNCH: But in most cases the self-confessed agents are also coming home to family. And Anna Chapman's mother, Irina Kuschenko, is standing by her daughter.
IRINA KUSCHENKO: I fully support my daughter. I know she's right. I have confidence in her and I'm sure they haven't done anything terrible. No matter what's happened and what was said about her, we will always be there for her.
LYNCH: Chapman, formerly Anya Kuschenko, became a citizen of the United Kingdom after she married a British man. They later divorced. Her US lawyer, Robert Baum, told reporters she's hoping to restart her life in London.
ROBERT BAUM: She wants to go back to the UK because she was married and lived there for almost, I'd say, seven years. So it is somewhere that in her adult life she called home and she'd like to return.
LYNCH: Chapman may not get far. British officials are already considering revoking her passport and barring her from reentering the country. In the midst of all the drama, there is the more pragmatic question of just who got the better deal in this swift exchange. Former Kremlin adviser Alexander Nekrassov says it's a clear win for the United States.
ALEXANDER NEKRASSOV: On the face of it, the Americans came out best out of this swap deal because they are getting three former intelligence officers and one leading scientist whereas the Russians are getting a bunch of people who didn't really do a lot in America.
LYNCH: Win or lose, the 14 people at the heart of today's remarkable events have one thing in common. All of them will have to rebuild their lives. For The World, I'm Laura Lynch in London.
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