Igor Sutyagin, the Russian nuclear researcher sentenced to 15 years for espionage, found himself at the centre of a spy-swap deal in 2010, writes Olga Shvarova.
Igor Sutyagin, a nuclear researcher at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies in Moscow, was arrested in October 1999. He compiled information on military and defence issues in Russia, while working as a private consultant for the UK-based Alternative Futures consultancy. He was found guilty in 2004 of “high treason by means of espionage” and was sentenced to 15 years in a high security penal colony. The case against him was initiated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). Sutyagin has always testified that he had no access to classified information but compiled his reports from public sources.
Amnesty International highlighted Sutyagin’s case in connection with its concerns about freedom of expression and the fairness of trials in Russia. Due to the conduct of the trial and the lengthy sentence imposed, a number of local and international human rights NGOs, in addition to Amnesty, raised concerns that the charges were politically motivated. In 2010, Sutyagin was sent to Britain as one of the convicted spies Russia exchanged for ten individuals (including Anna Chapman) alleged by the US to be Russian spies. Sutyagin’s mother told Amnesty that he opposed this deal but was coerced into accepting it.