One of the biggest prisoner swaps since the cold war unfolded on the tarmac of Vienna's airport on Friday as two airplanes -- one carrying 10 accused Russian sleeper agents and the other with four Russians deemed to be spies for the West -- traded their human cargoes and took off into the bright clear sky.
An American official confirmed the exchange had taken place, hours after the 10 accused Russian spies were whisked out of the United States on a charter plane. The American and Russian airplanes landed and departed in what appeared to be a clockwork operation on a remote part of the runway in Vienna, once a hub of clandestine East-West maneuvering.
The exchange was part of a deal with Moscow to put a quick end to an episode that threatened to disrupt relations between the two countries.
For the Obama administration, the swap is evidence of the "reset" in Russian-American relations. But at least one critic sees it differently, suggesting that there are still some important issues to be addressed. And that view is shared by at least one former Russian operative.
The Russian government also is saying all the right things, and the media reports from that country also suggest the Kremlin simply wants the issue to go away.
But with families still attempting to understand what has happened, it is unlikely that will happen.