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MOSCOW — The U.S. and Russia orchestrated the largest spy swap since the Cold War, exchanging 10 spies arrested in the U.S. for four convicted in Russia in a tightly choreographed diplomatic dance Friday at Vienna’s airport.
The exchange was a clear demonstration of President Barack Obama’s “reset” ties between Moscow and Washington, enabling the U.S. to retrieve four Russians, some of whom were suffering through long prison terms.
At least one of the four — ex-colonel Alexander Zaporozhsky — may have exposed information leading to the capture of Robert Hanssen and Aldrich Ames, two of the most damaging spies ever caught in the U.S.
Moscow avoided having 10 spy trials in the United States that would have spilled embarrassing details of how its agents, posing as ordinary citizens, apparently uncovered little of value but managed to be watched by the FBI for years.
The handover allowed Vienna to add yet another distinctive event to its long history as a key site for diplomacy, the capital of neutral Austria being the preferred place to work on treaties and agreements to reduce U.S.-Soviet tensions during the Cold War.
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