Russia and the United States are working out a spy swap involving Russians recently arrested in the United States and an imprisoned nuclear researcher, his brother said Wednesday.
Dmitry Sutyagin said his brother Igor, who is serving a 14-year prison sentence on charges of spying for the United States, was told by Russian officials that he was included in a group of other convicted foreign spies who are to be exchanged for the Russians arrested by the FBI last month.
The officials met Igor Sutyagin on Monday at a prison in Arkhangelsk, in northwestern Russia, and U.S. officials were at the meeting, his brother said.
Sutyagin, a Russian, said he was made to sign a confession, although he maintains his innocence and does not want to leave Russia, his brother said. After the meeting, Sutyagin was transferred to Moscow's Lefortovo prison, his brother said.
He was arrested in 1999 and convicted in 2004 on charges of passing information on nuclear submarines and missile-warning systems to a British company that investigators claimed was a CIA cover.
According to his brother, Sutyagin said that the Russian officials had shown him a list of 11 people to be included in the swap. The brother said Sutyagin only remembered one other person on the list — Sergei Skripal — a Russian army colonel who in 2006 was sentenced to 13 years on charges of spying for Britain.
The Russian Foreign Ministry and the Federal Penitentiary Service said they had no comment on the claim and a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy was not immediately available for comment.
In Washington, FBI spokesman William Carter declined to comment.
Sutyagin denied that he was spying, saying the information he provided was available from open sources. His case was one of several incidents of Russian academics and scientists being targeted by the Federal Security Service and accused of misusing classified information, revealing state secrets or, in some cases, espionage.
The United States last week arrested 10 people in an alleged spy ring that prosecutors say for the last decade has engaged in secret global travel with false passports, secret code words, fake names, invisible ink and encrypted radio. The spies were allegedly trying to obtain information about American business, scientific and political affairs. They have been charged with acting as unregistered foreign agents.
An 11th suspect was detained in Cyprus last week, but disappeared after being released on bail, triggering a wide manhunt by embarrassed Cypriot authorities.
The U.S. government has opposed the release on bail of any of the defendants, saying they would flee if they had the opportunity.(Agencies)