Vladimir Putin meets with deported Russian spies for singalong

Vladimir Putin has said he met with the Russian spies who were expelled from the United States, joining them in singing an unofficial KGB anthem and promising them good jobs and a bright future back in their homeland.

Russia's prime minister said this weekend he recently got together with the ten sleeper agents, without saying when or where. The agents were deported from the US earlier this month in a biggest spy scandal since the Cold War.

"We talked about life," Mr Putin said. "We sang What Motherland Begins With and other songs of that character."

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What Motherland Begins With is a song from the 1968 television series about Soviet spies in Nazi Germany. It is widely known as an unofficial anthem of Russian intelligence officers.

Mr Putin, a former KGB officer who in the early 1980s worked in communist East Germany as a low-level functionary, spoke about the uneasy lives the secret agents had in the US, where they were caught by the FBI in American cities and suburbs where they had been living for more than a decade.

"They had a very difficult fate," he said, referring to the expelled spies who spent years of burrowing into American society.

"They had to carry out a task to benefit their motherland's interests for many, many years without a diplomatic cover, risking themselves and those close to them."

The ten agents were deported in exchange for three former intelligence officers and a think-tank arms expert convicted and sentenced to long prison sentences in Russia. An 11th Russian spy escaped authorities in Cyprus and remains at large, while a 12th one, who had worked for Microsoft, was deported from the United States in mid-July.

American authorities did not charge the agents with spying, and it is not clear whether they actually compromised any secrets. Some Russian analysts called their mission a failure that showed how inefficient Russian intelligence agencies are.

Mr Putin, however, promised Russia will take a good care of its spying sons and daughters.

"They will work, and I am sure they will have decent jobs," he said. "And I am sure they will have a bright life."