US, Russia Swap Agents at Vienna Airport

VOA: U.S. flight that carried 10 deported Russian agents landed in Vienna Friday, as part of the biggest spy swap between the U.S. and Russia since the Cold War.

In exchange for the 10, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev had pardoned four prisoners convicted of spying for the United States.

A Russian jet carrying the four landed in Vienna as well.

On, Thursday, a U.S. judge ordered the deportation of the 10 Russian spies, who all pleaded guilty in federal court to conspiring to serve as unregistered foreign agents.  They left the country hours later.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that no significant national security benefit would have been gained from the prolonged incarceration in the U.S. of the 10 agents.   The U.S. also said it took advantage of the opportunity to secure the release of the four people serving lengthy prison terms in Russia, saying some were in poor health.

Among the conditions of their release, the 10 Russia agents must never try to return to the United States.

Lawyers for some of the suspects say their clients admitted knowing they were breaking the law – living in the United States under assumed names and working in routine jobs while all the time, gathering information for Russian intelligence.

An 11th suspect disappeared after being freed on bail in Cyprus.