MOSCOW — A Russian legislator specializing in national security on Thursday confirmed a newspaper report that a top intelligence official helped the United States arrest 10 Russian spies this summer.
The agents were taken into custody in June, several days after a U.S. visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. They were exchanged for four Russians who had been convicted of espionage in their own country. It was the largest spy swap between the countries since the end of the Cold War.
The respected daily Kommersant cited unidentified sources as identifying the Russian official only as Col. Shcherbakov, who it said headed the American section of a Foreign Intelligence Service division specializing in sleeper agents.
Gennady Gudkov, a member of the Russian parliament's national security committee, later said "Shcherbakov turned over our agents in the U.S.A.... I knew of this long before the publication today in Kommersant."
Gudkov could not be reached for elaboration, including how he knew of Shcherbakov's alleged involvement. His quotes, originally reported by the Interfax news agency, were confirmed by his office.
The newspaper cited a source in the Kremlin administration as saying that Shcherbakov's whereabouts were known and that a "Mercader" had been sent for him — referring to Ramon Mercader, the Soviet agent who murdered Leon Trotsky in Mexico in 1940.