Saturday Feb 10, 2018
TALLINN: Estonia and Russia swapped convicted spies on Saturday after the two men received presidential pardons, Estonian authorities said.
Estonian businessman Raivo Susi was exchanged for Russian national Artyom Zinchenko at the Koidula border post in southeast Estonia.
"The Estonian state helps its citizens whenever it can," said Arnold Sinisalu, the head of Baltic state's security police.
"Estonia deported to Russia the spy who had committed a crime here, and thus the Estonian businessman could return to the people close to him after being confined for a long time in Russia."
Susi was detained by Russian authorities in February 2016 over his actions between 2004 and 2007 and was sentenced last year to 12 years in a strict penal colony for espionage.
Susi's business reportedly had to do with aircraft delivery and service.
A Tallinn court had sentenced Zinchenko last year to five years behind bars for spying on behalf of Russia's GRU military intelligence.
The court found Zinchenko, who had been living in Estonia on a residence permit since 2013, guilty of gathering and transmitting intelligence that compromised national security.
This represents the latest in a series of spy cases involving Russia and the Baltic states.
The former Soviet republics turned NATO and EU members are increasingly wary of Moscow's intentions following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
This is not the first time that Estonia and Russia have exchanged spies.
In 2015, Russia freed Estonian officer Eston Kohver in a cold war-style bridge swap between the two countries.
Kohver, who was sentenced by Russia to 15 years in jail on espionage and other charges, was exchanged for Aleksei Dressen, a former Estonian security official serving a 16-year sentence for spying for Moscow, the FSB had said at the time.