AP Interview: Russian arms researcher tells AP he wishes more were freed in dramatic spy deal

By Raphael G. Satter, AP
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

AP Interview: Russian haunted by role in spy swap

LONDON — The Russian arms researcher released from prison in a Cold War-style spy swap has mixed feelings about the deal and wishes more of his colleagues had been freed.

Igor Sutyagin, still struggling to adjust to life in Britain following 11 years behind bars in Russia, told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that he assumed more people would be liberated when he signed the confession that set the swap into motion.

Sutyagin told the AP he knew of at least eight fellow academics languishing in Russian prisons, including physicist Valentin Danilov, who is serving a 14-year-sentence for working with allegedly sensitive information that his defenders argue has long been in the public domain.

“I would be glad if I sat next to them on the plane to Vienna,” Sutyagin said, describing the flight that flew him from Moscow to freedom on July 9. “I would definitely be happy — not only glad — if more people would be free.”

Sutyagin, 45, was one of four Russians released in a dramatic exchange that followed the arrest of 10 deep-cover Russian agents operating in the United States.

But his was not the classic case of spy-for-spy. Russia watchers have described his 1999 conviction on charges of treason as a part of campaign by the Kremlin to intimidate the nation’s academics, and Sutyagin’s case has been championed by Russian and international human rights campaigners. Sutyagin himself has long insisted on his innocence.

In earlier remarks to journalists and lawyers in central London on Tuesday, Sutyagin said his signature was part of “a very clear deal: Honor for freedom.”

But he said he also had in mind the prisoners — in both in the U.S. and in Russia — whose fate hung on his move. Describing the torment of being a prisoner, and the pain it had put its family through, he said he felt as if “my relatives were somehow imprisoned with me.” He said he did not want to put other families through that just to preserve his own honor.

Sutyagin has little in the way of links to Britain — although the company he worked for was based in the U.K. His flight from Vienna dropped him off in Britain with nothing by way of official explanation, and he told the AP he still has not made his peace with life here.

He compared his predicament to a swimmer trapped under a sheet of ice, searching desperately for a hole through which to breathe.

“That hole would be the old Russia which I left long ago,” he said sadly.

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