In Spy Swap, US Got the Pros

Russia gives up aging Cold War turncoat
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 9, 2010 7:36 AM CDT
In this Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2006 file picture Sergei Skripal speaks to his lawyer from behind bars seen on a screen of a monitor outside a courtroom in Moscow.   (AP Photo/Misha Japaridze)

(Newser) – The four spies Russia handed over to the US last night didn’t have much in common with the 10 spies they got back. The so-called “sleeper” agents that the US nabbed were mainly in the business of looking for government and think-tank contacts that Russia’s “professional” spies could exploit, one law enforcement official tells the Washington Post. But three of the guys Russia gave up were, at least in their heyday, consummate pros.

While nuclear researcher Igor Sutyagin has gotten the most press, the other three were the spy heavyweights, each an aging KGB agent from the Cold War days. Alexander Zaporozhsky bolted to the US after retiring and bought a $400,000 house, drawing accusations in Russia that he was actually an escaping defector; they later nabbed him on a return visit to Russia and jailed him for treason. Another, Sergei Skripal, confessed to selling secrets to MI6. Gennady Vasilenko, who was in jail on weapons charges, was run out of Russian intelligence in 1988 because of his friendship with a US spy.

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