Rumors of spy exchange in Bout case

As of late there have been rumors circulating in the Russian and Western Press that a possible cold war style spy exchange has been in the works and is behind several very loud yet seemingly unrelated events that have been making headlines both in Russia and the US.

In the west multiple information sources talk about what the West sees as a heightened level of counter-intelligence activity by Russian Intelligence which many speculate may be related to loud public statements and official discussions surrounding the cases of Victor Bout and Konstantin Yaroshenko.

Currently there are talks and discussions in progress regarding the possible transfer of Victor Bout to the Russian Federation where he would serve his US sentence for crimes he was accused for in the U.S. This was recently reported by the Interfax News Agency in a report covering the recent visit to the Russian Federation by the Attorney General of the United States Eric Holder who met with the Russian Chief of International Legal Cooperation for the Russian General Prosecutor’s Office. According to Interfax during the course of what they called “negotiations’ the subject s of both Bout and Yaroshenko were, in fact, discussed in detail.     

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly stated its concerns regarding the Bout and Yaroshenko cases from their very outsets and has protested in almost all means possible, the illegal detentions, questionable methods used for their extraditions, and many other aspects of the cases which have continued to be the center of public attention both in the Russian Federation and abroad.

In light of the petitions and the appeals that are being filed by the lawyers for Victor Bout in the United States, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Alexander Lukashevich has recently stated that the Russian Government is looking forward to a substantive dialogue and a quick mutually acceptable resolution through international mechanisms in returning the Russian compatriot home.    

Although Bout and Yaroshenko were not Russian intelligence operatives the possible “uneven” exchange, many are saying, may be for one retired FSB Colonel Valery Mikhailov who the Moscow District Military Court sentenced on June 6th to 18 years in prison spying for the CIA. The former FSB officer was found guilty of high treason (Article 275 of the Criminal Code) and damage to the external security of the Russian Federation.

The 18 year sentence is being called harsh by some due to the fact that Mihailov pleaded guilty and helped the FSB identify his American controllers and an undisclosed number of Americans were also captured or arrested as they were servicing the dead drops.

His relationship with the CIA was self initiated and apparently took place in Moscow. He actively worked for the CIA from 2001 until his retirement from the FSB in 2007 when he moved to live in Arlington Virginia in the U.S.    

During his time as a CIA Agent he passed the CIA over 1,000 documents that the FSB had prepared for the President, the Prime Minister and the Security Council of the Russian Federation.

According to counter-intelligence he would leave flash memory devices with the documents on them in dead drops where they would be picked up by his CIA controllers.  

It was not until 2010 that the FSB was able to trick Mihailov into returning to the Russian Federation where he was arrested in his apartment on Leninsky Prospect.

During his 6 years of betrayal spying for the CIA he admitted to being paid over $2 million dollars by his CIA controllers.

According to Nikolai Kovalyov the current Vice-Chairman of the Duma Committee on Security and a former FSB Director an exchange is quite possible, especially in light of the fact that Victor Bout is of little importance to the U.S. unlike their spy who is of great value to the CIA, which does not normally publicly throw away its agents and which will do everything possible to “rescue” Mihailov

The former director of Russia’s internal intelligence and security service has also stated that allegations that Bout was somehow involved in intelligence work or was somehow a secret asset are utter stupidity and nonsense as there is no intelligence to be gathered by selling arms.

The aim of the U.S. in going after Bout was to attempt to show the world that Russia is a dangerous country that poses a threat to the U.S. and other countries he added.

The reason he says that Russia might agree to such an exchange is that it would be a strategically beneficial as it would show Russian citizens that the state will not give up on its citizens if they get into a difficult situation abroad.

Another loud spy case between Russia and the United States took place in early 2000 when Russian counterintelligence exposed a former Foreign Intelligence Service operative Alexander Zaporozhsky, who until 1997 was Deputy Chief of the First Division of the Office of Counterintelligence of the SVR and who for five years passed information about Russian intelligence agencies to the CIA. He was traded during the Anna Chapman affair.

Another traitor Russian SVR agent Colonel Alexander Poteev was sentenced to 25 years in prison on June 27th, 2011 but managed to escape and was tried in absentia.

On May 31st a former soldier of the Military-Technical Department of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Vladimir Lazar was sentenced to 12 years in prison for passing secret topographic maps of Russia to the Pentagon.

According to investigators Lazar was working for the Defense Intelligence Agency of the U.S. and passed along over seven thousand electronic images of topographic maps which he copied to a hard drive and passed to agents in the Republic of Belarus. The images could be used for planning ballistic missile attacks on the territory of the Russian Federation.

Finally another serious spy case involved the Alexander Gniteev who was sentenced to 8 years in prison on the 18th of May in a court in a Sverdlovsky Regional court. He was found guilty of passing secret information regarding missile construction to foreign intelligence agencies.

As we can see Russian Counter Intelligence has had plenty to keep them busy and the West is still going all out to obtain secrets from the Russian Federation. All in all I would say they have been doing a wonderful job of protecting the Russian Federation especially if one is to consider that these are only the cases that we know about and are only a very small percentage of the total.

The question still remains, will Russia trade one of these traitors for Russian citizens illegally held in the U.S.?

As they say; only time will tell.