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

Oleg GordievskyBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | |
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

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EU foreign minister’s husband shunned KGB approaches in 1980s

Peter Kellner

Peter Kellner

The husband of the recently appointed European Union minister for foreign affairs has acknowledged that the KGB tried to cultivate a relationship with him in the 1980s. Peter Kellner, who now presides over influential British polling company YouGov, is married to Baroness Ashton of Upholland (born Catherine Margaret Ashton), who assumed the prominent EU post on November 19. Intelligence documents show that British domestic intelligence agency MI5 had tagged Kellner and his wife as “communist sympathizers”, because of their anti-apartheid activism and long-term involvement with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, considered a “subversive” movement within the intelligence services. Read more of this post

Russian Patriarch was KGB agent, say accusers

Alexei Mikhailovich Ridiger, better known as Patriarch Alexy II of Russia, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, died in Peredelkino, Russia, on December 5, 2008. His death has been overshadowed by allegations that he was for years “a favorite of the KGB”, having been recruited by the Soviet intelligence agency in 1958, while still a junior priest in Tallinn, Estonia. British newspaper The Guardian quotes KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky, who states that Alexy “worked for the KGB for over 40 years […] and was mentioned in KGB archives under the codename Drozdov”. French press agency AFP cites Gleb Yakunin, a Soviet-era human rights activist who has examined church-related KGB files. Yakunin said that “[p]ractically all the bishops consecrated in Soviet times worked with the KGB […]. They were all informers […]. But Alexy stood out especially. He was very active in this profession”. Alexy’s funeral is to be held tomorrow in Moscow, Russia. [JF]


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