MOSCOW – MOSCOW (AP) — A Russian analyst convicted of spying for the West who was released from prison and flown to Britain as part of a spy swap said Friday he is yearning to return home.
Igor Sutyagin has been granted a six-month work visa by Britain, but he told Russia's Ekho Mosvky radio station in a telephone interview from London that he doesn't intend to stay.
Sutyagin spoke this week for the first time since he was delivered, still in Russian prison attire, to a British military base in rural Oxfordshire last month. He said he is staying with friends in London and is talking to relatives about future employment in Russia.
"It's my country. I am not on the run," he said, adding Russian officials vowed they would not hinder his homecoming.
He and three others convicted of betraying Moscow for the West were pardoned and exchanged in July for 10 Russian agents who had infiltrated suburban America in the largest spy swap since the Cold War.
Sutyagin was a military analyst with the U.S.A. and Canada Institute, a respected Moscow-based think-tank, before he was sentenced to 15 years in 2004 on charges of passing information on nuclear submarines and other weapons to a British company that Russian investigators claimed was a CIA cover. Sutyagin has insisted on his innocence, saying the information he provided was available from open sources.
For President Dmitry Medvedev's pardon, Sutyagin was required to sign a confession, something he said he initially declined to do. But he reconsidered after speaking with American and Russian officials who told him the release of others depends on his cooperation, he said.
Sutyagin said in Friday's interview that he was fatigued and longed to be among his friends and relatives in Russia to make up for lost time.
"I need to return. Eleven years have been lost. I need to get moving," he said, casting off warnings he said he had received from acquaintances in Russia not to return and risk renewed trouble with the authorities.
In the meantime, relatives were applying for passports to fly to see him, he said, but had been told the processing period would be longer than expected. He suggested the holdup had been linked to interviews he had given since arriving in Britain, but did not go into any greater detail.
Of the four convicts pardoned and flown out of Russia, two — Sutyagin and Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in the Russian military intelligence who was found guilty of passing state secrets to Britain and sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006 — were sent to Britain. The others, Alexander Zaporozhsky — a former colonel in the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, sentenced in 2003 to 18 years — and Gennady Vasilenko — a former KGB officer sentenced to three years in prison on murky charges of illegal weapons possession — flew to the United States.
It remains unclear why the two were sent in Britain, though the country figured in both their cases.
"Honestly, I don't know. No one has explained it," Sutyagin said, saying he welcomed the destination all the same for it's relative proximity to Russia.