U.S., Russia complete biggest spy swap since Cold War

17:36, July 09, 2010      

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Photo taken on July 8, 2010 shows the Manhattan federal court in New York, the United States. Ten Russian spy suspects in New York will be deported to Russia Thursday night after Russia agreed to release the prisoners and their family members. It marks one of the largest spy swaps between the two countries since the end of the Cold War. (Xinhua/Wu Kaixiang)

The United States deported on Thursday ten Russian agents in exchange for the release of four convicted Western spies held in Russia in their biggest spy swap since the Cold War.

The alleged spies, who were captured last week in suburban homes across the Northeast, left for Moscow after pleading guilty in a New York federal court Thursday.

"Today's criminal convictions of 10 Russian agents in Manhattan federal court mark the culmination of years of extraordinary work by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, and the Department of Justice's National Security Division," said Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

The conviction of the ten Russian spy suspects brought one of the most notorious U.S.-Russian spy cases in history to an end.

They were accused of appearing to be ordinary Americans for more than a decade while actually leading double lives with false passports, secret code words, fake names, invisible ink and encrypted radio.

The agents ranged from Anna Chapman, a red-haired real-estate agent whose glamorous pictures have filled tabloids around the world, to Vicky Pelaez, a columnist for a Spanish-language newspaper, who said she had "brought a letter with invisible ink" to her contact.

An eleventh defendant was detained in Cyprus and later went missing after his release on bail.

Attorney General Eric Holder said the case took years of work, and the agreement reached Thursday "provides a successful resolution for the United States and its interests."

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