Russia Releases Norwegian, Lithuanians in Unusual Spy Swap

(Bloomberg) -- Lithuania and Russia swapped spies at the Baltic nation’s border on Friday, with two Lithuanian citizens and a Norwegian handed over in exchange for two Russians.

Earlier Friday, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda pardoned the two Russians, who’d been sentenced to 10 years each in 2017 for espionage, to clear the way for the exchange.

“We’re very pleased that this long and laborious operation has been completed successfuly,” said Vaidotas Zukas, Nauseda’s defense adviser. “Citizens must know that the state won’t abandon them.”

The unusual operation included two North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies and led Russia to release Frode Berg, a Norwegian who’d been sentenced to a 14-year prison sentence in Russia for spying on that country’s navy submarines.

“We are glad that Frode Berg is now coming home to Norway as a free man,” Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in the statement. “I would like to thank the Lithuanian authorities for their cooperation and for their efforts to free Berg.”

Lithunians Jevgenij Mataitis and Aristidas Tamosaitis, convicted in Russia in 2016 on spying charges, were also freed. On the Russian side were Nikolai Filipchenko, a Russian security officer who sought help from Lithuanian counterparts to bug a former Lithuanian president, and Sergei Moiseyenko, a military surgeon who asked a childhood friend working at an airbase to provide information on NATO air policing.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.