The Guardian

Has the cold war idea of 'spy etiquette' disappeared?

Sergei Skripal’s poisoning appears to have broken unwritten rules, but some say they never existed
The Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov was killed by a poison pellet on Waterloo Bridge in 1978. Photograph: Dimitar Deinov/AP

US and Russian intelligence officers who operated during the cold war largely acknowledge that Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies is a fair portrayal of how a spy swap used to be. The movie reflects a world in which there seemed to be an unwritten “spy etiquette”. Those captured would be exchanged rather than executed, and would not be hunted down later in revenge assassinations.

Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, said this etiquette had broken down under Vladimir Putin, the Russian president and former KGB officer..

Speaking after the nerve and his daughter, Yulia, Galeotti said: “During the cold war, there was an understanding about what was and what was not acceptable.”

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