Russia Exchanges Spies With Lithuania, Norway in Cold War-Style Swap

Russia freed two Lithuanians and a Norwegian on Friday in return for two Russian spies held in Lithuania, in a Cold War-style spy swap that brought several high profile espionage cases to a close.

The Norwegian, Frode Berg, a retired border guard, was arrested in Moscow in 2017 and convicted of gathering intelligence on behalf of Norway. He pleaded not guilty.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg told a news conference she had spoken with Berg by telephone and he would come home as soon as “practically possible.”

“We are happy that Frode Berg is coming back home to Norway as a free man,” she added.

Bergs lawyer, Brynjulf Risnes, told Norwegian newspaper VG that Berg was undergoing a medical examination, and needed some peace before traveling back to Norway.

It was not immediately clear when Berg could fly back from Lithuania, which helped to arrange the spy swap that took place at midday on Friday at a Lithuanian border post with Russias Kaliningrad exclave.

Solberg said at a news conference that the actions of Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and his countrys parliament showed “a spirit of a great ally and true friend, and we will remain grateful.”

Lithuanian President Nauseda shakes hands with Director of the State Security Department Jauniskis in Vilnius
Lithuanian President Nauseda shakes hands with Director of the State Security Department Jauniskis in Vilnius
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda (R) shakes hands with Director of the State Security Department Darius Jauniskis in Vilnius, Lithuania on Nov. 15, 2019. (Andrius Sytas/Reuters)

Norway has not promised any rewards to Lithuania in exchange, she added.

Both Norway and Lithuania are NATO member states, and Norway has its soldiers taking part in NATOs rotating exercises in the Baltic state, concerned about Russias aggressiveness.

Moscow says it has no intention of invading the Baltics or Poland and accuses NATO of destabilizing Europe by moving troops closer to Russias borders.

News about Bergs release prompted celebrations in his hometown Kirkenes, in Arctic Norway.

“We have been waiting for this for two years now,” Oeystein Hansen, a member of a support group, told Reuters by phone. “It is very good for all the parties, the local community, the family, the Norwegian nation.”

“We are so happy right now,” Bergs daughter, Christina Berg, who was waiting for her fathers return in Oslo, told Reuters by text message.

One of the two freed Russians, Nikolai Filipchenko, was sentenced in Lithuania in 2017 to 10 years Read More – Source