Russia, U.S. swap 14 in Cold War-style spy exchange

MOSCOW/VIENNA, (Reuters) – Russia and the United  States conducted the biggest spy swap since the Cold War yesterday, trading agents on the Vienna airport tarmac in an  evocative climax to an espionage drama that had threatened  improving ties.  

Two aircraft — one Russian, one American — parked side by  side for about 90 minutes. The agents changed places under the  cover of gangways as waves of heat rose from the tarmac. 
 
The Russian plane then took off, followed by the U.S. jet  in an echo of Soviet-era spy trades across the Iron Curtain in  Central Europe. Officials in Vienna, once a center of Cold War  intrigue, maintained a news blackout.  

The U.S. Justice Department said shortly after the takeoff  that the exchange of 10 agents released by Washington and four  freed by Moscow had been successfully completed.  

The plane landed at Domodedovo airport outside Moscow a few  hours later. Shielded from cameras, the Russians stepped off  and were driven away in a convoy of SUVs, sedans and buses. 
 
Later, a plane believed to be carrying Russians freed in  the swap landed at Dulles airport outside Washington, CNN said.  It was unclear how many of the four were on board. 
 
The conclusion to the espionage drama was played out after  spymasters brokered the deal on the instructions of presidents  keen not to derail breakthroughs in Russian-U.S. relations. 
 
In the first step of the carefully choreographed swap, the  10 Russian agents pleaded guilty on Thursday in a New York  court to charges against them and were immediately deported.

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