Lithuania pardons Russians sentenced for espionage, paving way to spy swap – media
Lithuania's president on Friday pardoned two Russians jailed for espionage and Russia said it would reciprocate the move by releasing two Lithuanians, paving the way for a possible three-way spy swap also involving Norway.
Lithuanian news agency BNS said last month discussions were under way on exchanging two Russians jailed in Lithuania, two Lithuanians sentenced for spying in Russia and a Norwegian jailed in Russia for spying, as reported by Reuters.
Authorities in the three countries have either declined to comment on the BNS report or denied it.
But a decree published on Friday on the Lithuanian presidency's website showed President Gitanas Nauseda had pardoned Russian citizens Nikolai Filipchenko and Sergej Moisejenko.
Hours later, Russian news agencies quoted Sergei Naryshkin, who heads Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), as saying Russia would take reciprocal measures though it did not say when.
Nauseda said he would meet NATO-member Lithuania's head of counter-intelligence, Darius Jauniskis, at 1215 GMT and they planned to hold news conference after their meeting.
Filipchenko was detained in 2015 and sentenced in 2017 to 10 years in jail for spying and crossing a state border using a forged document, the Lithuanian general prosecutor's office said.
He holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), it said.
The president also pardoned Moisejenko, who was detained in 2014 and sentenced in 2017 to 10-1/2 years for spying and illegal possession of weapons, the prosecutor's office said.
It said both men denied the charges, but that Filipchenko had targeted the Lithuanian president's security staff with the aim of bugging the presidency's office and home, and Moisejenko had sought information about Lithuanian and NATO armed forces.
The president signed legislation earlier this week enabling him to pardon a person convicted of a crime in Lithuania in exchange for a Lithuanian citizen prosecuted abroad who "acted in the interests of Lithuania."
The October BNS article identified the two Lithuanians who could be part of a spy swap as Jevgenij Mataitis and Arstidas Tamosaitis. Both have been jailed by Russia on spying charges.
Norway has been seeking the release of Frode Berg, a retired guard on the Norwegian-Russian border who was arrested in Moscow in 2017 and convicted of gathering intelligence on behalf of Norway. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.