Published: Jul 09, 2010 10:47 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 09, 2010 7:48 AM EDT

VIENNA (AP) - U.S. and Russian flights involved in a 14-person

spy swap landed briefly in Vienna, apparently exchanged agents,

then took off again in the largest such diplomatic dance since the

Cold War.

In a carefully scripted exchange, the two planes arrived within

minutes of each other Friday, parked nose-to-tail at a remote

section on the tarmac, then spent about an hour and a half there

before departing just as quickly.

The swap apparently completed, a Russian Emergencies Ministry

Yakovlvev Yak-42 plane left Vienna reportedly carrying 10 agents

deported from the U.S. Minutes later, a maroon-and-white Boeing

767-200 that brought those agents in from New York took off,

apparently with four Russians who had confessed to spying for the

West.

No information was immediately available as to the planes'

destinations. But the Russian flight was thought to heading for

Moscow, while the U.S. charter was likely flying to London.

Igor Sutyagin, an arms control researcher convicted of spying

for the United States, had told relatives of the spy swap while

still in prison and said he was being sent to Vienna and then onto

London.

Vienna has long been involved in such Cold War-like

machinations, the capital of neutral Austria being a preferred

place to work on treaties and agreements meant to reduce

U.S.-Soviet tensions.

Both countries won admissions of crimes from the subjects of the

exchange - guilty pleas in the U.S. and signed confessions in

Russia.

In exchange for the 10 Russian agents, the U.S. won freedom for

and access to two former Russian intelligence colonels who had been

convicted in their home country of compromising dozens of valuable

Soviet-era and Russian agents operating in the West. Two others

also convicted of betraying Moscow were wrapped into the deal.

One 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.

U.S. officials said some of those freed by Russia were ailing,

and cited humanitarian concerns in part for arranging the swap in

such a hurry. They said no substantial benefit to national security

was seen from keeping the captured agents in prison for years.

Former intelligence operatives agreed.

The 10 Russian agents arrested in the U.S. had tried to blend

into American suburbia but been under watch for up to a decade by

the FBI. Their access to top U.S. national security secrets

appeared spotty at best, although the extent of what they knew and

passed on is not publicly known.

The lawyer for one of them, Vicky Pelaez, said the Russian

government offered her $2,000 a month for life, housing and help

with her children - rather than the years behind bars she could

have faced in the U.S. if she had not agreed to the deal.

In an elaborate round of dealmaking, U.S. officials met Monday

in Russia with the convicted spies and offered them a chance for

freedom if they left their homeland. Russian officials in the U.S.

held similar meetings with the agents captured by the FBI.

On Thursday, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree

pardoning the four after officials forced them to sign confessions.

The Kremlin identified the four as Zaporozhsky, Sutyagin,

Gennady Vasilenko and Sergei Skripal.

Zaporozhsky, a former colonel in the Russian Foreign

Intelligence Service, sentenced in 2003 to 18 years in prison for

espionage on behalf of the United States. He was convicted on

charges of passing secret information about Russian agents working

undercover in the United States and about American sources working

for Russian intelligence.

Skripal, a former colonel in the Russian military intelligence,

was found guilty of passing state secrets to Britain and sentenced

to 13 years in prison in 2006. He was accused of revealing the

names of several dozen Russian agents working in Europe.

Sutyagin, a military analyst, asserts his innocence despite the

confession. He worked with the U.S.A. and Canada Institute, a

respected Moscow-based think-tank, before being sentenced to 15

years in 2004 on charges of passing information on nuclear

submarines and other weapons to a British company that Russia

claimed was a CIA cover. Sutyagin says the information he provided

was available from open sources.

Gennady Vasilenko, a former KGB officer employed as a security

officer by Russia's NTV television, was sentenced in 2006 to three

years in prison on murky charges of illegal weapons possession and

resistance to authorities. It was not exactly clear why he was

involved in the spy swap.