Ex-officer convicted of betraying Russian spy ring

Alexander Poteyev was convicted of treason and desertion, Russian news agencies reported.

Moscow: A Moscow military court on Monday convicted in absentia former top foreign service agent Alexander Poteyev of betraying 10 "sleeper" spies expelled from the United States last year.

Poteyev was convicted of treason and desertion, Russian news agencies reported.

Prosecutors had demanded a 25-year jail sentence for Poteyev, who is believed to be in the United States after reportedly fleeing Russia just days before the spies` exposure in the United States.

There was no immediate information on the court`s sentence or when it might be issued.

Security analysts said the cell`s detection dealt a serious blow to Russia`s foreign intelligence efforts and revealed weaknesses in the country`s surveillance programme in the United States that had been Moscow`s pride since Soviet times.

Russian news agencies said Poteyev had until last year served as the deputy head of the US department of Directorate S -- a covert operations department involved in placing sleeper agents in foreign countries who try to pass off as locals.

The case began behind closed doors last month and Poteyev himself was represented by a court-appointed lawyer.

Last summer`s exposure of the spies -- who included the media sensation Anna Chapman and others who worked on the US East Coast -- left some intelligence officials conceding that their US surveillance programme had been dealt a brutal blow.

Former spy and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin used a national television appearance in December to call the double agent a "pig" who will "regret it a thousand times over".

Washington announced the 10 Russians` arrest just days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev travelled to the United States last June and eventually swapped them for four Russians convicted of spying for the West.

The exposed Russian agents were personally greeted on their return to Russia by Putin and several have since established lucrative business careers.

Bureau Report

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