MOSCOW — An American telephone technician, charged with spying in Russia but allowed to go home for Christmas, arrived in Moscow on Wednesday and said he hopes to make it home to San Diego for Christmas dinner with his family.
"It depends on whether we can get a plane down there in time," Bliss said upon his arrival at Moscow's Vnukovo airport from the southern town of Rostov-on-Don.
"We are heading in that direction, so I am happy," Bliss said before taking a car to the Sheremetyevo international airport. It was not immediately known which flight he would take.
"We are on a mission to get back Richard to his family in the United States. It's going to be a long journey," said an official with San Diego-based Qualcomm Corp., which employs Bliss.
Bliss, 29, was arrested Nov. 25 and accused of gathering secret information while performing surveillance work using satellite equipment in the Rostov region.
He was formally charged with espionage, a charge that can carry a prison term of up to 20 years. Bliss, his company and U.S. officials have all denied he was spying.
Bliss was set free on bail but not allowed to leave the area of his arrest. On Tuesday, investigators gave him permission to go home for Christmas, but bad weather delayed his departure from Rostov.
Qualcomm spokeswoman Christine Trimble said the company was paying for about 10 people, including Bliss' family, to fly to San Diego to be with him. Bliss agreed to return to Russia on Jan. 10, but the company hopes that the case will be resolved by then, she said.
Bliss' Russian lawyer, Valery Petryayev, said the investigators' decision to allow his return to the U.S. proved the weakness of the government's case.
"Had he been a real spy, nobody would have sent him to America for Christmas," Petryayev told Russian television.
The Federal Security Service, the main successor to the KGB, has accused Bliss of surveying sensitive sites using satellite receivers brought into Russia illegally.