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2019.11.15 10:43

Lithuanian president pardons two Russians ahead of possible spy swap with Moscow

Updated
Vaidotas Beniušis, BNS2019.11.15 10:43

President Gitanas Nausėda has granted pardons to two Russian citizens jailed in Lithuania for espionage, opening the way for a prisoner swap with Moscow.

Nikolai Filipchenko and Sergey Moiseyenko were both convicted for spying in 2017 and are currently serving prison sentences in Lithuania.

The presidential decree says the two Russians were pardoned based on a new Criminal Code provision regulating spy swaps, which came into force earlier this week.

“I have no further comments on this topic at the moment. We will answer possible questions in the near future,” Antanas Bubnelis, Nausėda's spokesman, told BNS on Friday.

The decrees were signed on Thursday and published on Friday morning.

According to Lithuanian law enforcement, Filipchenko was a cadre of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). A Vilnius court handed him a ten-year prison sentence.

The lawyer for Filipchenko has welcomed Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda's decision to pardon him, adding that she has no information about the Russian citizen's release.

"We can only be glad. And our citizens will return to Lithuania," lawyer Galina Kardanovskaya told BNS on Friday.

She said she had no information on when and how Filipchenko would be released from Vilnius Correctional Facility. "I understand it’s no longer within my competence," she said.

Moiseyenko was sentenced to 10 years and six months in jail by a Šiauliai court for recruiting a Lithuanian military officer.

Under the deal, Moscow should issue pardons to Yevgeny Mataitis and Aristidas Tamošaitis, two Lithuanian citizens convicted in Russia in 2016, sources have told BNS.

Tamošaitis was sentenced to 12 years in prison by a Moscow court. A Kaliningrad court handed a 13-year prison sentence to Mataitis, a dual Lithuanian-Russian citizen.

Moscow says both men carried out Lithuanian military intelligence tasks. Lithuanian officials never commented on links with these individuals.

As part of the deal, Russia may also pardon Frode Berg, a former Norwegian border guard convicted of espionage.