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Russian spies get tepid reception in Moscow

The spies deported to Russia are getting a tepid, uneasy reception.

world Updated: Jul 11, 2010 16:37 IST

The spies deported to Russia are getting a tepid, uneasy reception.

The 10 who pled guilty to acting as foreign agents in the US, including one Peruvian, weren't publicly visible on Saturday, a day after being swapped on the tarmac of the Vienna airport for four Russians convicted of spying for the West.

State-controlled national television channels reported their return concisely, with none of the patriotic fervor that could accompany such a story. The straightforward approach may itself be a sort of spin, reflecting the Kremlin's clear desire for the case to go away for fear that it could undermine efforts to improve relations with Washington.

No national TV channels carried live coverage of the plane's landing Friday, even though it was available from international news agencies.

Newspapers were more vivid, though hardly complimentary. "A staggering success in the fight against world espionage: Russians exchanged for Russians," the leftist newspaper Sovietskaya Rossiya said in its headline. It also noted sourly that the swap showed "one American agent is equivalent to the worth of two-and-a-half Russian agents."

Moskovsky Komsomolets, one of Russia's most popular newspapers, put the spies below its top story about an octopus and a parakeet predicting World Cup soccer results. Newspaper commentator Alexander Khinshtein fumed that the four sent out from Russia would likely be lauded in the West.

"There will be a scrum around them; everybody will want to shake the hands of the heroes, invite them to lunch and dinner ... the saboteur (Igor) Sutyagin will be embraced by congressmen," he wrote.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper focused on the fate of two convicted Russian spies sent to the U.K. and buried the arrival of Anna Chapman, Mikhail Semenko and eight others in lower paragraphs. The online edition of the Gazeta newspaper cited a former KGB agent, Vladimir Rubanov, as saying the latest spies could be drafted to be teachers of future generations of spies, even though they apparently produced little useful information and eventually got caught.

"Mistakes can be learned from," he said.