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60 years ago, this is how Washington delivered a dangerous spy to Moscow

Before the recent prisoner exchange between the United States of America and Russia, during which Russia recovered the arms dealer, nicknamed the Death Dealer, Victor Bout in exchange for the release of American basketball player Brittney Griner, the world followed about 60 years ago another prisoner exchange between the American and Soviet sides in coincidence with an accident American reconnaissance aircraft U-2 was shot down over Soviet territory.

During the 1962 exchange, the Americans accepted the return of pilot Francis Gary Powers in exchange for the release of one of the most dangerous Soviet spies.

Sentenced to 10 years in prison

In the late 1950s, the Soviet Union was aware of a number of American spy planes carrying out reconnaissance operations over its lands in the east of the country. Due to their lack of effective flak, the Soviet forces were not in capable of moving to intercept these American aircraft.

By the 1960s the situation had changed for the Soviets. On May 1, 1960, American pilot Francis Gary Powers took off in his U-2 aircraft from a US air base in Peshawar, in Pakistan, to conduct a reconnaissance tour of Soviet territory. While flying over Sverdlovsk, Francis Gary Powers’ plane came under a barrage of advanced Soviet S-75 Dvina surface-to-air missiles. With his plane hit directly and his engines ruptured, Francis Gary Powers opted to bail out and fall prisoner in the grip of the Soviets. With its appearance in court, this American pilot received a 10-year prison sentence on charges of espionage and violation of Soviet airspace, and was subsequently transferred to Vladimir prison.

Spy versus pilot

After Francis Gary Powers fell into the grip of the Soviets, US authorities tended to open channels of communication with the Soviet side to exchange this pilot for a Soviet prisoner. In the midst of these events, Moscow asked the Americans to release the spy William August Fisher, also known as Rudolf Abel.

During his intelligence career, Benwell-born Russian-born William August Fisher, in Great Britain in 1903, participated in many espionage operations. During the Second World War, questthe latter conducted many intelligence operations against the Germans. With the end of this global conflict, Soviet intelligence sent Fischer to the United States of America. There, questlast one was active in a spy ring in New York before falling into the hands of US authorities in the mid-1950s. After appearing before the court in 1957, Fisher received a 30-year prison sentence, of which he spent only 4 years in a prison in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

At the Glienicke Bridge, which connected West Berlin and Potsdam, an exchange of prisoners between the Americans and the Soviets took place on February 10, 1962. Thanks to this, the spy Fisher regained his freedom and escaped 30 years in prison. Instead, the Americans recovered the pilot, Francis Gary Powers, whom some called a weak man because he didn’t commit suicide instead of falling into the grip of the Soviets.

In the aftermath, Moscow praised the prisoner exchange process and spoke of the success of its espionage operations, noting that Fischer had been active on American soil for 8 years and passed on sensitive information to Soviet intelligence without disclosing his case.

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