Coroner’s report sees Russian state behind ex-KGB spy’s death

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
A previously classified report by the British government official who certified the 2006 death of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko states that the Russian state was directly implicated in the murder. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the UK. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting former KGB/FSB colleague Andrey Lugovoy at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder. In February of last year, Litvinenko’s family accused the British government of trying to block a probe into the murder case, after British Foreign Secretary William Hague limited the scope of a public inquest in to the matter on national security grounds. Supporters of Litvinenko have argued that White Hall has played down the Litvinenko murder case in order to preserve its trade ties with Russia’s government-owned energy companies. Members of the murdered spy’s family are now pushing for a full public inquiry into the incident, and are currently making the case before a specially appointed panel of judges at the High Court. In the course of this appeal, a previously classified document has emerged, which contains the report of Sir Robert Owen, the coroner who first examined the available evidence immediately after Litvinenko’s death. According to the document, which has been seen by the BBC, the coroner concluded that, based on “documents held by the UK government”, the “culpability of the Russian state in the death of Alexander Litvinenko” could be established “prima facie”. Read more of this post

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Further evidence shows Litvinenko worked for MI6 when killed

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
In 2012, a court in the United Kingdom was told that former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who died of poisoning in 2006, had been working for British and Spanish intelligence when he was killed. Now British newspaper The Independent says it has proof that the late Russian spy provided “expert analysis” on Russian politics for British intelligence, shortly before his death. Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the UK. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. Many suspect that the Russian government is behind Litvinenko’s murder. But the dead spy’s family has argued for years that his killers did not only kill an intelligence defector, but also an officer of British intelligence. On Thursday, The Independent said it had seen a diplomatic memo that was given to Litvnenko for analysis by British external intelligence agency MI6. The document, known in the British Foreign Office lingo as a “diptel” (diplomatic telegram), was dispatched to several British embassies around the world in 2000. It includes a descriptive analysis of a confidential meeting in London between British intelligence officials and Sergei Ivanov. Currently a political powerhouse in Putin’s administration, Ivanon was at the time an unknown quantity in Western circles. He had entered politics after having spent nearly two decades working for Soviet and Russian external intelligence. The diptel seen by The Independent outlines the exchange of views between Ivanov and the British officials during the meeting, and evaluates his stance on a broad range of issues, ranging from the rise of Islamic militancy, to China, the Middle East, and the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Read more of this post

KGB ‘ran two Australian politicians as agents’ in 1970s: document

Geronty Lazovik (left) in 1971By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
Soviet intelligence recruited and ran at least two Australian elected politicians as agents for the USSR in the 1970s, according to a confidential account authored by an Australian counterintelligence officer. The report’s author is allegedly an unnamed former employee of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO), which is tasked with counterespionage. Australia’s Fairfax Media, which claimed yesterday to have accessed the report, described it as “an unusually candid document”. It allegedly describes Soviet intelligence activities on Australian soil during the last two decades of the Cold War and names known Soviet intelligence officers operating in Australia at the time. Among those named is Vladimir Yevgenyevich Tulayev, described in the confidential report as “a hard-eyed, well-dressed thug” who was “aggressively involved in intelligence operations in Australia”. The document also names Geronty Lazovik, considered by AFIO as a “definite agent runner”. Australian counterintelligence described Lazovik as a far more refined operative than Tulayev and kept tabs on him as he developed and cultivated “a wide range of contacts” across Australia’s Federal Parliament. The report suggest that Australian Labor Party politicians, aides and lobbyists were among Lazovik’s “contacts” in Australia, though it does not explicitly name them as agents of the Soviet KGB. Arguably the most important allegation made in the report is that another KGB operative in Australia, Vladimir Aleksandrovich Aleksyev, was able to recruit and run “two Australian politicians as agents” in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The document states that Aleksyev was able to handle the two alleged recruits “using tradecraft of a fairly high order”, suggesting that he was perhaps one of the KGB’s most successful known case officers in Australia. The confidential report alleges that the ASIO leadership approached the Australian government with information about the operations of the KGB officers. Read more of this post

Dissident playwright assassinated with poison pellet 35 years ago

Georgi MarkovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This past Sunday marked 35 years since the assassination with a poisoned umbrella pellet of Bulgarian literary icon and political dissident Georgi Markov. By 1969, when he defected from Bulgaria, Markov had achieved considerable fame in his homeland and was considered one of the Eastern Bloc’s most talented and promising young novelists. Increasingly, however, Markov fraternized with dissident artists and intellectuals, and several of his short stories and plays were disapproved by Bulgarian government censors. In 1969, while visiting his brother in Bologna, Italy, Markov decided to remain in the West. Two years later, he moved to the United Kingdom where he was offered a job at the Bulgarian unit of the BBC World Service. He also did contract work for Germany’s Deutsche Welle and Radio Free Europe, which was funded by the United States government. This prompted the Bulgarian authorities to view Markov’s actions as a defection, and he was sentenced in absentia to nearly seven years in prison by a court in Sofia. But Markov continued his work unabated, earning critical acclaim for his plays in the UK and elsewhere in the West. But on September 7, 1978, the Bulgarian dissident developed a powerful fever and was admitted to a London hospital, where he died 72 hours later, on September 11. Following an autopsy, Britain’s Metropolitan Police concluded that Markov had been poisoned by a micro-engineered pellet made of platinum, which had been filled with ricin. While on his deathbed, Markov had told police investigators that he had felt a sharp pinch on the back of his right thigh while walking across London’s Waterloo Bridge over the River Thames. When he turned around, prompted by the pinching feeling, he said he saw a well-dressed man picking up an umbrella from the ground. The man then quickly crossed the street and hailed a taxi. Since then, Soviet intelligence defectors, including Oleg Gordievsky and Oleg Kalugin, have suggested that Markov’s murder had been planned by the Soviet KGB and carried out by Bulgarian intelligence. Read more of this post

As many Russian spies in UK today as in Cold War: Soviet defector

Oleg GordievskyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Soviet KGB’s former station chief in London, who defected to the United Kingdom in the 1980s, has alleged that Russia operates as many spies in Britain today as it did during the Cold War. Oleg Gordievsky, 74, a fluent speaker of Russian, German, Swedish, Danish, and English, entered the Soviet KGB in 1963. He eventually joined the organization’s Second Directorate, which was responsible for coordinating the activities of Soviet ‘illegals’, that is, intelligence officers operating abroad without official diplomatic cover. Gordievsky’s faith in the Soviet system was irreparably damaged in 1968, when Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia. In 1974, while stationed in Copenhagen, Denmark, he made contact with British intelligence and began his career as a double agent for the UK. In 1985, when he was the KGB’s station chief at the Soviet embassy in London, he was summoned back to Moscow by an increasingly suspicious KGB. He was aggressively interrogated but managed to make contact with British intelligence and was eventually smuggled out of Russia via Finland, riding in the trunk of a British diplomatic vehicle. In 2007, Gordievsky was awarded the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George (CMG) by the Queen “for services to the security of the UK”. Russia, however, considers Gordievsky a traitor and the government of Vladimir Putin refuses to rescind a death sentence given to him in absentia by a Soviet court. In an interview with The Guardian newspaper this week, Gordievsky said London is currently home to 37 officers of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies to the KGB. Read more of this post

British government tries to block probe into ex-KGB officer’s murder

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The family of a Russian spy, who died of poisoning after defecting to Britain, has accused the British government of trying to cover up the affair in order to avoid embarrassing Russia. Alexander Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became widely known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. He died in hospital three days later. A public inquest into Litvinenko’s murder had been scheduled for May, 2013. On Tuesday, however, it was revealed that the British government had filed a written petition to limit the information disclosed in the inquest. According to The London Times, British Foreign Secretary William Hague filed a Public Interest Immunity Certificate (PIIC), which, if allowed to stand, would limit the scope of the inquest on national security grounds. It is believed that the government wishes to block information linking Litvinenko to the Secret Intelligence Service —also known as MI6— Britain’s primary external spy agency. Last December, Ben Emmerson, the lawyer representing Litvinenko’s widow, claimed that the late Russian spy was a “registered and paid” agent of MI6 and Spanish intelligence at the time of his death. Read more of this post

Philby’s son, widow, speak on 50th anniversary of his defection

Philby interview c.1967 By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
For most of us, January 23, 2013, was a day like any other. But for intelligence history aficionados it marked the 50th anniversary of the escape to Moscow of notorious double spy Harold Adrian Russell Philby. Known as ‘Kim’ to his friends, Philby secretly defected to the USSR from his home in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1963. He is widely considered history’s most successful double spy. While working as a senior member of British intelligence, he spied on behalf of the Soviet NKVD and KGB from the early 1930s until his defection. In 1965, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner. When he died, in 1988, he was buried with honors by the Soviet authorities. Philby’s defection sent ripples of shock across Western intelligence and is often described as one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War. On the 50th anniversary of Philby’s defection to Moscow, British newspaper The Daily Telegraph carried an article with excerpts of interviews with one of Philby’s sons, Dudley Thomas Philby, and his Russian widow, Rufina Pukhova Philby. Born in 1946, Dudley ‘Tommy’ Philby is the third of Kim’s five children with his second of four wives, Aileen Furse Philby. Aileen died in 1957, when Tommy was just 11 years old; his contact with his father was cut off as soon as the double spy defected to the USSR in January 1963. But it was resumed a few months later, when he received a letter from his father in Moscow. Eventually, Tommy visited Kim five times in Moscow in the 1970s. Speaking on the anniversary of his late father’s defection, he described him as “a very kind man” and “a very good father”, who “had his belief [in] communism [and] carried it out”. He told The Telegraph that he personally did not agree with his father’s political views, but added: “he was what he was, what could I do?”. He told the paper that Kim eventually came to think that “it was all wrong”, implying that Philby grew disillusioned with the Soviet system. Read more of this post

Closed-door trial of Soviet/Russian sleeper agents starts in Germany

The Anschlags' house in MeckenheimBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A married couple accused of spying on Germany on behalf of the Soviet Union and Russia for over two decades has gone on trial in Stuttgart. Andreas Anschlag, 54, and his wife, Heidrun, 48, were arrested in October 2011 by GSG-9, the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit of the German Federal Police. They were later charged with having spied since at least 1990 for the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate and its post-Soviet successor organization, the SVR. German federal prosecutors also accuse the couple of document forgery, since their Austrian passports, which they used to enter West Germany from Mexico in 1988 (Andreas) and 1990 (Heidrun) are believed to be counterfeit. There is also speculation that the couple’s surname may in fact be an alias given to them by their intelligence handlers. Upon entering West Germany in 1988 and 1990, the Anschlags initially settled in Aachen, on the German-Belgian border, before moving to Meckenheim, a small town with a population of less than 30,000 located a few miles southwest of Bonn. They concentrated on blending into German society, while raising their son daughter and leading what their neighbors describe as a “discreet life”. Over the years, they managed to recruit a number of informants, including a Dutch diplomat identified by authorities in Holland only as ‘Raymond P’. The diplomat, who was arrested last June, is believed to have given the Anschlags nearly 500 classified documents originating from the German armed forces, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the European Union. Read more of this post

Fascinating profile of the Soviet KGB’s little-known tech wizard

US Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., displays the Soviet KGB's Great Seal bug at the United NationsBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
It is often suggested by intelligence researchers that one major difference between Western and Soviet modes of espionage during the Cold War was their degree of reliance on technology. It is generally accepted that Western espionage was far more dependent on technical innovation than its Soviet equivalent. While this observation may be accurate, it should not be taken to imply that the KGB, GRU, and other Soviet intelligence agencies neglected technical means of intelligence collection. In a recent interview with top-selling Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda, Russian intelligence historian Gennady Sokolov discusses the case of Vadim Fedorovich Goncharov. Colonel Goncharov was the KGB’s equivalent of ‘Q’, head of the fictional research and development division of Britain’s MI6 in the James Bond films. A veteran of the Battle of Stalingrad, Goncharov eventually rose to the post of chief scientific and technical consultant of KGB’s 5th Special Department, later renamed Operations and Technology Directorate. According to Sokolov, Goncharov’s numerous areas of expertise included cryptology, communications interception and optics. While working in the KGB’s research laboratories, Goncharov came up with the idea of employing the principles behind the theremin, an early electronic musical instrument invented by Soviet physicist Léon Theremin in 1928, in wireless audio surveillance. According to Sokolov, the appropriation of the theremin by the KGB under Goncharov’s leadership “changed the world of intelligence”. Read more of this post

Litvinenko was working for UK, Spanish intelligence when he was killed

Alexander LitvinenkoBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A lawyer representing the family of a KGB defector to Britain, who died of poisoning in 2006, has told a court hearing in London that the late spy was working for British and Spanish intelligence at the time of his death. Alexander Litvinenko was an employee of the Soviet KGB and one of its successor organizations, the FSB, until 2000, when he defected with his family to the United Kingdom. He soon became known as a vocal critic of the administration of Russian President Vladimir Putin. In 2006, Litvinenko came down with radioactive poisoning soon after meeting a former KGB/FSB colleague, Andrey Lugovoy, at a London restaurant. Speaking at a preliminary court hearing on Thursday, in light of an upcoming British government inquiry into Litvinenko’s death, Ben Emmerson, QC, said that the late Russian spy was a “registered and paid” asset of the Secret Intelligence Service. This is not the first time that Litvinenko has been linked to the SIS —known informally as MI6— Britain’s external spy agency. Litvinenko’s widow, Marina, made similar claims to the British press in January of this year. But yesterday’s testimony by her legal team provided the public record with further revelations about her husband’s connections with British intelligence. The court heard that Litvinenko received a regular stipend from MI6 either in cash or via electronic transfer and that he had been provided with an encrypted telephone, which MI6 used to contact him on a routine basis. The night before his poisoning, said Emmerson, Litvinenko had met his MI6 handler, who went by the operational alias MARTIN. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #812

Yasser ArafatBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Russia to help probe Yasser Arafat’s death. Russia will join an international investigation to determine whether the first Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, was murdered, the current Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, has said. French and Swiss experts are due to exhume Arafat’s body in Ramallah later this month in an attempt to discover how he died after an al-Jazeera documentary in July suggested he was killed by a rare radioactive poison. Abbas asked Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov for Moscow’s help during talks in Jordan, Palestinian sources said.
►►Revisiting the foiled 1984 Nigerian kidnap plot. In London in 1984, a team of Nigerians and Israelis attempted to kidnap and repatriate the exiled former Nigerian minister Umaru Dikko. Mr. Dikko, who had fled Nigeria after a military coup, was accused of stealing $1bn (£625m) of government money. The plot was foiled by a young British customs officer and, as a result, diplomatic relations between the UK and Nigeria broke down and were only fully restored two years later. The Nigerian and Israeli governments have always denied involvement in the kidnapping.
►►Putin congratulates KGB double spy on his birthday. Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated famous double agent George Blake on his 90th birthday, the Kremlin press office has said. Blake betrayed British intelligence starting in the 1950s; he was found out in 1961 and sentenced to 42 years in prison. But he escaped five years later using a ladder of rope and knitting needles, made his way to the Soviet Union and has been living out his last years serenely in a cottage outside Moscow. After his escape from the Wormwood Scrubs prison in London, he was smuggled to Berlin in a wooden box in the back of a van. In the interview published last week, he said he then presented himself to border guards in East Berlin, asked to speak to a Soviet officer, and when told to wait, immediately fell into a deep sleep.

Belgium suspends senior diplomat on suspicion of spying for Russia

Belgian embassy in CopenhagenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Belgian government has admitted suspending one of its senior diplomats following allegations in the press that he had spied for the Soviet Union and Russia for over two decades. According to Flemish-language Belgian magazine MO, the diplomat, identified only as “O.G.”, has been “suspended in the interest of the [Belgian diplomatic] service” and is currently under investigation by the Office of the Federal Prosecutor. Citing “sources in the Belgian State Security Service”, the SV/SE, the article said the subject was stationed at the Belgian embassy in Danish capital Copenhagen when he was recalled to Brussels late last year. The man is said to have spent nearly three decades as an employee of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, having served in several Belgian embassies and consulates in Japan, India, Algeria, Nigeria, Portugal, and the United States, prior to arriving in Denmark. However, according to the MO article, he was accosted by the Soviet KGB in the late 1980s, shortly after he arrived at the Belgian embassy in Tokyo, Japan, for his first-ever diplomatic posting. Since that time, said the magazine, “O.G.” has spied for the KGB and its successor, the SVR, having stayed in contact with “several different Russian handlers”. Prior to 2011, when he ceased contact with Russian intelligence, the Belgian diplomat was allegedly tasked with providing the FSB with information that could be used to concoct false identities belonging to deceased Belgian citizens. The Russians would then use these identities to supply their intelligence operatives with high-quality Belgian identity papers and travel documentation. Late last week, another Belgian publication, The EU Observer, contacted the Belgian Foreign Ministry to inquire about “O.G.”. A Ministry spokesperson told the paper: “we can confirm that an official from our ministry was suspended from his functions a bit over one year ago, following indications of a security breach”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #798

Alexander LitvinenkoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Britain to hold inquest over death of ex-KGB officer. Britain and Russia appear to be on a collision course over the death of Alexander Litvinenko, a former Russian intelligence officer who died in 2006 after ingesting polonium-210, a rare radioactive isotope. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service has accused Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, both former KGB agents, for the death of Litvinenko. Russia has refused British requests to extradite the two, leading to a row with Moscow and the tit-for-tat expulsion of Russian and British diplomats. Until now, the British Foreign Office had attempted to limit the scope of an inquest into the death of Litvinenko, fearing further diplomatic fallout. But coroner Sir Robert Owen said last week that he endorsed a previous ruling by his predecessor in the case, Andrew Reid, that there should be an “open and fearless” investigation into the matter.
►►Ex-CIA operative who illegally sold arms to Libya dies. Edwin P. Wilson, a former CIA officer who was convicted in 1983 for illegally shipping 20 tons of C4 plastc explosives to Libya, has died aged 84. In his trial he claimed he had shipped the weapons to Libya at the request of the CIA, because, as he said, the agency was trying to establish good relations with the Libyan government. But the court did not buy his story, so he spent over 20 years in prison, mostly in solitary confinement, until his release in 2004. He maintained his innocence to the very end.
►►Analysis: Libya an opportunity for CIA if it sticks around. The attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans, including a US ambassador and two former Navy SEALs, has led Americans to vacate Benghazi for their safety, even though various militant groups continue their operations. It is a disaster for US intelligence efforts in the region, especially since the attack has made brutally clear how real the jihadi threat in eastern Libya remains. But there may be the smallest of silver linings to this black cloud, if American operatives are able to capitalize on it. The aftermath of the attack shows widespread displeasure with Benghazi’s jihadist groups, with thousands marching in protest. That is an opportunity the CIA could use to rebuild its intelligence gathering.

Missing section of Cold War spy tunnel unearthed in Germany

Part of the unearthed tunnelBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A missing section of a secret tunnel, constructed by British and American intelligence agencies to spy on Soviet and East German government communications during the Cold War has been unearthed in Germany. The tunnel, believed to be nearly half a kilometer (1/3 mile) long, was part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Operation GOLD, also known as Operation STOPWATCH in Britain. It was based on an idea initially suggested to the Americans in the early 1950s by Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), which had carried out a similar scheme in Soviet-occupied Austria. The CIA adopted and funded the program at the cost of nearly $7 million. At its completion, the underground tunnel connected a secret entry-point in Rudow, West Berlin, to a location beneath Alt-Glienicke in East Berlin. The aim behind the project was to tap into underground telephone cables facilitating Soviet and East German military and civilian government communications. But the KGB, the Soviet Union’s foremost intelligence agency during the Cold War, was aware of the project almost from its infancy, thanks to George Blake, a British informant who was later convicted to 42 years in prison, but managed to escape to Moscow in 1966. Interestingly, the KGB did not reveal the tunnel’s existence to the Soviet and East German militaries, fearing that a sudden rerouting of communications cables would expose Blake as a Soviet mole. Instead, they allowed the tunnel to operate for nearly a year before publicly exposing its existence in 1956. At that time, Soviet and East German authorities dug up the eastern section of the tunnel and bussed in hundreds of international reporters, as well as tens of thousands of East Germans, to view the tunnel, in a massive propaganda campaign. In 1997, part of the tunnel that crossed West Berlin was excavated and transported to the Allied Museum in Berlin. Read more of this post

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