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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Admits to Aiding Spy

STOCKHOLM, Sweden -- Russia has admitted the Soviet Union helped a convicted spy escape from Sweden in 1987 but will not accept blame today, Sweden's prime minister said Friday.


Appearing largely satisfied with the admission, Prime Minister Carl Bildt told reporters he had no plans to protest further about the spy, Stig Bergling, who returned to Stockholm voluntarily last week after seven years on the run.


"The Bergling affair can be put in the past," Bildt told reporters when asked the affect on relations with Russia.


Bergling, 57, had been one of Sweden's most damaging double agents. As an officer in the Swedish army and intelligence services, he passed thousands of documents to the Soviets in the 1970s about defense and weapon sites.


He was caught in 1979 with Israeli help, convicted and sentenced to life in prison. While on a conjugal visit with his wife in 1987, he escaped to Finland and disappeared.


Sweden filed an official protest on Aug. 4 against Russia, saying Bergling now says he was harbored and employed by Soviet and Russian authorities since escaping. Sweden also retracted its accreditation of a Russian diplomat.


In a verbal reply Thursday to the protest, Russia said it was the Soviet government that had helped Bergling to escape "for humanitarian reasons," Bildt told reporters Friday.


Russia claimed it does not bear responsibility for Soviet actions and so could not accept the protest note, calling it a case handled by the former Soviet Union, Bildt said.


The Swedish prime minister said he considered the reply "one and a half admissions out of two." He said the answer confirmed Soviet involvement even if it did not address Bergling's activities.


"On one hand Bergling has been living in private and has not been involved in any security work," he said. "On the other hand they don't want to give out any information about" his activities.Appearing intent on avoiding a major diplomatic flap, Bildt said that Russia's reply cited its long practice of not revealing any person's employment in security work.