June 27, 2011 -- The Russian spies who were arrested in the U.S. a year ago today and then deported have now turned the tables on the double agent who ratted them out to U.S. authorities.
Col. Alexander Poteyev, a former high official in Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, has been found guilty of treason and desertion thanks to testimony by Anna Chapman and the other nine men and women who pled guilty to espionage in the U.S. and were then sent back to Russia in exchange for alleged Western agents in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.
According to Chapman and the other spies, only Poteyev could have provided the information that sparked their mass arrests last June 27. Chapman, who has become famous since her arrest for her sexcapades, photo shoots and business ventures, told the court that she was apprehended shortly after a U.S. agent contacted her using a code word known only to Poteyev and her personal handler. At the time, Poteyev was deputy head of the Foreign Intelligence Service's "S" department and ran the sleeper agent ring.
Poteyev was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison by the Moscow District Military Court in absentia. According to the court's verdict, Poteyev, now 59, fled to the U.S. just before the July 9, 2010, spy swap via Belarus and Germany, leaving his wife behind.
U.S. officials at the CIA and State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the court's claims.
According to Russian media reports of the verdict, Poteyev left suddenly, and sent a farewell message to his wife that said he was never coming back. "Mary, try to take it calmly. I'm leaving not for some time, but forever. I didn't want to, but I had to. I will start my life from scratch and will try to help the children," he reportedly said.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin appeared on national television shortly after the spy swap to call Poteyev a "pig" who would "regret it a thousand times over."
Russian authorities greeted the Russian spies as heroes when they returned last year, rewarding them with medals. Chapman in particular has been able to parlay her fame into a post-espionage career, becoming an official in Putin's political party, hosting a television show and walking the runway at a fashion show, among other pursuits. Nude and partially nude photos of Chapman were released to the media by Chapman's British ex-husband after her arrest, and since her return to Russia she has posed in leather and with weapons for men's magazines.
Chapman provided testimony to the court, but did not appear in person.
Poteyev's lawyer plans to appeal the verdict according to a report by Russian state news.