Did fugitive spy Metsos lead to Russian spy arrests?

Christopher Metsos

C.R. Metsos

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Soon after the June 27 arrests of 10 Russian non-official-cover (NOC) spies in several US cities, one name came to the attention of intelligence observers: Sergei Tretyakov. Tretyakov was a senior Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) officer who defected to the US in 2000, while second-in-command at the SVR station in Russia’s United Nations mission in New York –the same outfit that run the deep-cover operatives arrested in June by the FBI. The Bureau’s own admission that it began monitoring the operatives around 2001, has caused many to believe that Tretyakov, who died suddenly on June 13, at age 53, may have tipped off the FBI about the NOCs. But Russian investigative journalist Yulia Latynina has raised a second possibility, no less intriguing than the first. Namely that it was not Tretyakov who betrayed the deep-cover operatives to the FBI, but rather the mysterious so-called 11th spy, Christopher R. Metsos, a seasoned SVR operative who is said to have acted as a go-between and financier for all 10 Russian spies. This theory may sound somewhat far-fetched, but Latynina suggests that it would explain why the Russians did not evacuate the NOCs in 2000, once Tretyakov was compromised, implying that Tretyakov was not aware of their existence. Accordingly, Metsos’ mysterious disappearance in Cyprus could be “just a smokescreen to cover up his work as [...] a mole who was feeding the Foreign Intelligence Service false information while working for the Americans”, says Latynina. IntelNews readers will recall that Metsos, who until recently held Canadian citizenship, was arrested on June 29 at Cyprus’ Larnaca International Airport, while trying to board a flight for Budapest, Hungary. Remarkably, he was soon released on bail by Cypriot authorities, who were awaiting an extradition request from Washington. Predictably, Metsos vanished the next day, prompting most observers to speculate that he was secretly transported back to Moscow by Russian agents. However, Latynina speculates that Metsos may be now “comfortably living in the United States, where he has been debriefed by the FBI and CIA and has already received a new name and face”.

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Expert news and commentary on intelligence, espionage, spies and spying, by Dr. Joseph Fitsanakis and Ian Allen.

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