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A Russian plane carrying 10 spies convicted in the US has arrived in Moscow, while a US plane with four Western spies had arrived at a British military base. It signals the completion of the largest spy swap since the Cold War.
The flights were believed to be carrying agents for a 14-person exchange.
The United States on Thursday deported 10 Russian spies in exchange for the release of four convicted Western spies held in Russia and pardoned by President Dmitry Medvedev.
In a separate development, the Kremlin press service said Friday that Medvedev has pardoned 16 other prisoners in addition to the four spies allegedly working for Western intelligence agencies.
The 16 people, whose crimes were not specified, were subsequently released from prison.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said the swap was based on humanitarian grounds and principled constructive partnership.
The Ministry added that Russian diplomatic missions abroad will provide assistance where ever possible to resolve issues related to the return of the children of Russian citizens, accused in the US of espionage.
The scandal broke when the US said on June 28th it had uncovered a ring of suspected Russian agents who used false identities to gather intelligence on the US.
FBI agents said the Russians had communicated with Moscow by concealing invisible text messages in photographs posted on public Internet sites. Some had met Russian diplomats from the US mission in New York.
Russian diplomats said the timing of the announcement could be an attempt by US hardliners to torpedo the so-called reset in ties that President Barack Obama has championed.
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