Russian convicted of treason in sleeper agent case

Russian spy suspects in a Manhattan courtroom sketch, 8 July 2010.
Image caption The 10 Russian agents appeared in a US court before their expulsion

A former senior Russian intelligence officer, Alexander Poteyev, has been found guilty of betraying the names of ten Russian sleeper agents.

A Moscow court convicted Mr Poteyev in absentia of treason and desertion, sentencing him to 25 years in jail.

He left Russia shortly before the sleeper agents were arrested a year ago and he is now believed to be in the United States.

The agents were expelled from the US last year.

The military court said Poteyev had overseen the Russian agents in the US as a deputy head of the "S" department of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service.

Vladimir Kharitonov, the prosecutor in the case, said he was satisfied with the verdict.

"By the court's ruling he is stripped of his military rank and all state decorations."

The 10 sleeper agents were expelled by the US last July and exchanged for four Russians who allegedly spied for the West.

It was the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.

Image caption Anna Chapman, once a 'sleeper', now a Russian television host

On their return, the Russian sleepers were met by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and given Russia's top honours by President Dmitry Medvedev.

They included Anna Chapman, who has since become a media sensation in Russia, hosting her own television show.

Ms Chapman testified that she was caught after an undercover American agent contacted her using a code that only Poteyev and her personal handler knew.

She said she immediately felt that something was wrong and called her handler in Moscow who confirmed her suspicions.

Ms Chapman and the others were arrested shortly afterwards.