Russian Spy Swap May Be Imminent

By ELLEN BARRY and SCOTT SHANE, The New York Times

MOSCOW — The lawyer for an imprisoned Russian scientist, Igor V. Sutyagin, said on Thursday that she expected him to be freed by the end of the day, probably through a prisoner exchange in Britain, but that his departure would take place under conditions of complete secrecy.

The reported exchange was not confirmed by Russian or American officials.

The lawyer, Anna Stavitskaya, said Mr. Sutyagin had verbally agreed to an exchange during a meeting with Russian officials who he believed were from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, or S.V.R., and that Americans had also been present at the meeting.

Her comments followed reports from Washington on Wednesday that just days after theF.B.I.’s sensational dismantling of a Russian spy ring, the American and Russian authorities were negotiating an exchange of some or all of the 10 accused agents for prisoners held in Russia, including Mr. Sutyagin.

“Probably he will be free today, this is the most important thing,” said Ms. Stavitskaya, who said she had heard nothing from Russian officials. She said Mr. Sutyagin had consistently denied spying for the United States, for which he was sentenced to a 14-year term, but this week signed a document admitting guilt.

“If he is free, the United States could be thanked for one thing, for saving a person,” she said. “I am thankful to the United States, if it was the United States that included him on the list. If at last he is freed — not in the way we wanted, because we wanted him to restore his good name — but it is difficult to do it given our judicial system.”

“At least he will be freed in this way,” she said. “If he leaves today, it will happen quietly.”

Mr. Sutyagin said he was told the exchange would take place in Britain, and that he would be transported through Vienna. In the past, Ms. Stavitskaya said, such exchanges have taken place under such conditions of secrecy that even close relatives were not informed until after the accused had been freed.

Though American officials in Washington were close-mouthed, they confirmed the talks on Wednesday.

“I feel our discussions will probably be resolved by tomorrow one way or another,” said the lawyer, Robert M. Baum. Another defense lawyer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was possible that many of the 10 defendants, or all of them, would plead guilty in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday, when they are to appear for arraignment. (An 11th defendant fled after being released on bail in Cyprus.)

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