After serving more than ten years of a 15-year sentence for espionage, Russian arms researcher
Igor Sutyagin was freed today in what is being reported as the largest spy swap between the United States and Russia since the end of the Cold War.
Sutyagin was not a spy, but reportedly shared sensitive information about Russian nuclear weapons from public sources with a London firm. His research drew the unwelcome attention of the FSB, Russia’s secret police successor to the Soviet KGB. His case was taken up by human rights organizations, and the U.S. State Department declared he was a political prisoner.
As part of the deal for his release, Sutyagin signed a confession. The Guardian (UK) reports that “Sutyagin’s family said he maintained his innocence but agreed to the deal rather than face another four and half years in the “harsh regime” of the penal colony at Kholmogory near Arkhangelsk.”
Sutyagin, a father of two girls, had been in prison since in arrest on October 27, 1999.