Lithuania, Russia, Norway Carry Out Three-Way Spy Swap
By RFE/RL November 15, 2019
Two Lithuanian men convicted of spying in Russia "have been reunited with their families" after they were released as part of a spy swap, the chief of Lithuania's counterintelligence, Darius Jauniskis, announced on November 15.
"Today at midday the exchange operation was completed successfully. Lithuanian citizens Yevgeny Mataitis and Aristidas Tamosaitis and Norwegian citizen Frode Berg successfully returned to Lithuania," Jauniskis told reporters in Vilnius.
He said Lithuania handed over two Russians, Nikolai Filipchenko and Sergei Moiseyenko, pardoned by Lithuania, in an exchange at a Lithuanian border crossing.
Mataitis and Tamosaitis were convicted in Russia in 2016 of allegedly leaking Russian military intelligence to their country.
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, speaking in Oslo, confirmed that Berg, who was serving a 14-year sentence in Russia for espionage, was handed over to Norwegian authorities in Lithuania. She said he would come home as soon as "practically possible."
Berg's lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, said he was undergoing a medical examination and needed some peace before traveling back to Norway.
Earlier in the day, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda pardoned Filipchenko and Moiseyenko, who were sentenced by Lithuanian courts in 2017 for espionage, an official statement published on the presidential website said.
Nauseda's decree said the Russians were pardoned in line with a new law on spy swaps.
The head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) said on November 15 that Moscow will respond in kind, without offering any specifics.
"According to my information, it is reciprocal measures," Sergei Naryshkin told Russian news agencies in response to a question about Moscow's reaction.
A Lithuanian court in 2017 sentenced Filipchenko, identified as an employee of Russia's FSB security service, to 10 years in prison for spying. Filipchenko was trying to recruit senior officials in the Baltic state.
Moiseyenko was sentenced to 10 years and six months after a Vilnius court ruled he recruited a Lithuanian officer who served at the country's Siauliai air base. Moiseyenko pleaded innocent.
Berg, a retired former inspector on the Norwegian-Russian border, was detained in Moscow in December 2017 by the Federal Security Service (FSB), and accused of seeking classified information relating to Russian nuclear submarines.
In April, the 63-year-old was found guilty and sentenced to 14 years in prison after a trial held behind closed doors in Moscow.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and TASS
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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