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NEW YORK (AP) — The largest Russia-U.S. spy swap since the Cold War appeared to be in motion Thursday, with up to 10 guilty pleas planned in New York by defendants accused of spying for Russia in exchange for the release of convicted Russian spies. A Russian convicted of spying for the United States was reportedly plucked from a Moscow prison and flown to Vienna.
A swap would have significant consequences for efforts between Washington and Moscow to repair ties chilled by a deepening atmosphere of suspicion.
The 10 defendants who entered a New York courtroom for a hearing Thursday afternoon wanted to enter guilty pleas, prosecutor Michael Farbiarz said at the start of the proceeding before Judge Kimba Wood. An 11th person charged in the case is a fugitive after jumping bail in Cyprus.
"It's a resolution that will put this thing behind him as quickly as we can arrange it," said Peter Krupp, an attorney for Donald Heathfield, before the hearing. He would not say whether the plea involves a swap.
One person familiar with the plea negotiations told The Associated Press that most of the defendants expected to be going home to Russia later Thursday. The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter in advance of the plea and spoke on condition of anonymity.
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