The biggest spy swap since the end of the Cold War appeared to have taken place on Friday as Russian and U.S. planes met in Vienna to exchange agents.
A Russian plane carrying agents in a Cold War-style spy swap with the United States took off from Vienna airport on Friday, a Reuters witness said, and is believed to be heading for Moscow.
The U.S. chartered jet which had brought the agents from New York left minutes later. It was not clear how many agents were on the planes but the deal involves 14 people in total.
Local officials maintained a strict news blackout throughout.
Moscow and Washington had earlier agreed to swap 10 Russian agents held in the United States for four Russians jailed in Russia on charges of spying for the West.
Spymasters brokered the deal on the instructions of presidents keen not to derail a series of important diplomatic breakthroughs in Russia-U.S. relations.
In the first step of the carefully choreographed swap, the 10 Russian agents pleaded guilty on Thursday in a New York court to charges against them and were immediately deported.
Then, around midnight local time, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree pardoning four spies serving jail terms in Russia on charges of spying for the West.
Some of those accused in the U.S. boarded a plane in New York on Thursday night and the same Vision Airlines jet landed in Vienna on Friday, a Reuters witness said.
Related news reports:Güncelleme Tarihi: 09 Temmuz 2010, 14:43