TODAY: Relatives of researcher Igor Sutyagin suggest imminent release part of US-Russia spy swap; Russia protests Clinton’s terminology on Georgia breakaway territories; START faces Republicans. Threats to curators; CSCE to re-consider Phillip Morris corruption case; Solidarity activist detained; Belarussians protest against unflattering Russian docu on Lukashenko
The lawyer and family members of Igor Sutyagin, a Russian jailed in 2004 on charges of spying for the West, have announced his possible transfer and sparked reports of a spy swap between the US and Russia. The Moscow Times reports that the deal would involve ten convicted agents leaving Russia, and in turn the US would hand over its 11 deep cover agents. Apparently Mr Sutyagin is ill at ease with being handed over as part of a swap given he maintains his innocence, but ‘he basically has no other way out’, says Ernst Chyorny, executive secretary of the Public Committee in Defense of Scientists in Moscow. See a video with highlights from his brother’s news conference here. Reuters provides some spy swaps stories from history. The Washington Post’s Spy Talk blog looks at the hero’s welcome some spies receive upon their return home – and the difficulties awaiting others in their post-intelligence lives.
The Foreign Ministry has taken issue with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of the word ‘occupation’ in relation to Abkhazia and South Ossetia on her recent trip to Georgia. Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh is, Ria-Novosti reports, also irked by the term. Time magazine comments on the on-going storm of polemic surrounding START,precipitated by Mitt Romney’s highly critical op-ed. AnotherRepublican senator, Jon Kyl, concurs with some of Romney’s concerns inthe Wall Street Journal. ‘[B]alancing foreign policy and democracy is still not as easy at is made out to be in Washington’, says Nicolas Bouchet in the Guardian.
Reuters conveys a story from Russia! magazine which suggests thatthe Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe may soon review apossible connection between U.S. cigarette maker Philip Morris and a cabal of corrupt Russian officials who have also been implicated in the Magnitksy case. The New York Times has a disturbing report on religious opposition to art exhibitions: the ‘Forbidden Russia’ curators claim they have been taunted by hate groups with reminders of the fate of curator Anna Alchuk, who was found dead in the Spree River under mysterious circumstances in 2008. A United Civil Front and Solidarity activist in the south Russian city of Orel has been sentenced to ten days of detention for a mix of allegedly contradictory charges which he believes to be unfounded. The Moscow Times reports on a conflict between the Communications and Press Ministry and the State Duma over internet freedom. Is Russia’s making of an anti-Lukashenko TV documentary evidence of ‘a coordinated new information policy’ by Russia against the Belarusian president? RFE/RL explores.
Moscow commuters turn daredevil when faced with traffic snarls.
PHOTO: Researcher Igor Sutyagin listening as a Moscow court jails him on spy charges in 2004. His lawyer said Wednesday that he might be part of a spy swap. (AP)