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The U.S. and Russia swapped spies last Friday.  (Source: Reuters)

The swap reportedly released Anna Chapman, a young Russian spy who was snagged in the FBI sting operation.   (Source: Facebook)
Swap was largest since Cold War

Remember that crazy story about the red-head young Russian femme fatale spy Anna Chapman?  The door on that case is now officially closed after the U.S. federal government's completion of its largest spy swap since the Cold War, releasing Chapman and others.

The swap occurred at Vienna's airport Friday.  Two planes -- one Russian, one U.S. -- parked side by side on the tarmac.  Local news was blacked out.  Shuttles traveled between the planes over the course of the next hour and a half.  Finally the Russian plane climbed into the air, with the U.S. plane soon following behind.

It turns out that Russia wasn't the only one spying -- four U.S. spies had been caught when spying in Russia and were currently serving jail time.  For the sake of those individuals, and for the mutual economic relationship between the two nations, U.S. and Russian officials agreed to the historic swap.

On Thursday in New York City court, the 10 Russian agents (not including the one who was currently detained in Cyprus) pled guilty to espionage charges.  They were then immediately deported to the site of the swap.

The United States Justice Department comments, "The United States has agreed to transfer these individuals to the custody of the Russian Federation.  In exchange, the Russian Federation has agreed to release four individuals who are incarcerated in Russia for alleged contact with Western intelligence agencies."

The move comes as Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev work to prepare a major treaty to cut nuclear weapons stockpiles in both countries, possibly repurposing the radioactive material for U.S. in nuclear plants.  The Russian foreign ministry praised the swap, stating, "[It] gives reason to expect that the course agreed on by the leaders of Russia and the U.S. will be consistently implemented in practice and that attempts to knock the parties off this course will not succeed."

Some have accused President Obama of being too soft on the Russians.  One Russian site humorously posted: "Russia 10: USA 4".

The swap is the largest since 20 spies were exchanged back in 1985 in Germany at the Glienicke Bridge in the then divided city of Berlin.  The modern Russian spies used all sorts of techniques used by their predecessors -- bump-exchanges, invisible inks, and radio communication bursts.  However, they also employed more advanced methods like ad-hoc wireless networks, encryption, and stenography.





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