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. Hinting at sources inside British intelligence, the Soviet defector said that the Russian embassy in London housed another 14 officers of Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), Russia’s primary military intelligence organization. He added that the number of accredited intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover did not include members of an extensive network of informers, who are periodically employed by Russian government operatives. Gordievsky told The Guardian that, in addition to traditional political intelligence on the UK, Russian spies are after “sensitive commercial information”, and are also tasked with monitoring the activities of the Russian expatriate community in the UK, which includes several former oligarchs and critics of the Kremlin.

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

  1. Paul says:

    I have noticed that Gordievsky seems to have knowledge about things he cannot know about.

    He has surely been away from his KGB [and that’s no more] masters for ~27years and although some retained memories of tactics, tradecraft and operations will be accurate so much more will have been introduced, modified and developed in keeping with activities by opposing nations operations.

    Its 1985 coke can drop vs 2012 Electronic Moscow rock drop and Short wave Number Station vs BGAN technology as far as I’m concerned.

    Whilst Gordievsky may well be an expert on all things ‘spy’ for 1985 and before I personally doubt his accuracy and viability in today’s espionage environ.

  2. No doubt Mr Gordievsky has been a very useful person to British MI5 and MI6 over the past decades, but from my own experience I have found him to be profoundly dishonest.

    He was asked to give evidence at my trial in 1993, and he willingly offered to do so. One part of his evidence was that I had visited Oporto in 1977 to meet a KGB officer, and he elaborated about what may have happened while I was there. My visit to Oporto was completely innocent and part of a holiday, but Mr Gordievsky used this opportunity to make up stories that led to my conviction. He could have known nothing about what I did in Oporto.

    Later, during my Appeal, Mr Gordievsky was saying in his latest book that he had helped in my arrest – even the Prosecution had to deny that lie, and he was further accused of lying about others, including the later Minister of Defence George Robertson. I have posted the evidence here:

    But one of Mr Gordievsky’s admissions proves something is not right about his claims to be an expert in the intelligence field. He said under oath that he had never known about me before my arrest in 1992, and amazingly the Crown Prosecution Service were telling the jury that I had been a KGB agent at the very time Mr Gordievsky was Head of Residence at the London Soviet Embassy.

  3. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Very interesting Michael….Defector’s usually have very complex personalities. Their motives, allegiance’s and loyalties will forever remain questionable as a result of their being in the first instance – Traitors.
    Understandably – they will say & do anything required of them by their host nation – even if it means lying under oath – they are wise to do so if they want to retain British protection/residency.
    I am somewhat surprised that you are unnearved by the ‘dirty tricks’ campaign waged against you in your trial Michael – what did you really expect – given the game you were involved in ??

  4. Peter, the ‘dirty tricks’ campaign was indeed quite involved, including the arrest of Oleg Kalugin as he arrived at Heathrow to give evidence for my defence. Also the claim that a document, which became obsolete in 1984, had been used on ALARM missiles in the 1991 Gulf War.

    This latter ‘dirty trick’ was not revealed to me until 2007, and the prosecution used an MoD scientist at my trial (who had never worked on ALARM) to give hearsay evidence – he claimed that he had been told information on the phone by a Marconi Technical Director (who also didn’t work on ALARM). My lawyers and the judge did not challenge the anomalies, which raises further questions about how deep the ‘dirty tricks’ went.

    Perhaps I should have expected such ‘dirty tricks’, but having never been arrested for anything before I had faith in the British Justice system. I believed that a trial would be based on real evidence, and that those giving evidence on oath would tell the truth, and be ‘real’ experts in the fields on which they were testifying. And what ‘game’ do you think I was involved in Peter?

  5. Peter Wallerberger says:

    The kind of “Game” Mr Smith that results in a conviction along with a Twenty years of imprisonment.

    To all accounts; Michael, I for one am quite shocked at the length of the jail term you received
    based on the evidence as recorded in the MI 5 documentation. I totally agree with you that the administration of justice is fataly flawed if it is based on ‘hearsay evidence ‘- as such evidence is not admissable. I also believe that if one tries hard enough, one can join enough dots to achieve a result that ‘fits the picture’ in order to convince a jury of a certain scenario.(to a large degree
    the WMD debacle was evidence of this practice.It is also a “mindset” in certain institutions which means that certain events or notes can but only been seen in one diamension with no other possible explanation being acceptable.A mental condition affecting many intelligence analyst’s as well as the lower echelon of counter intelligence field workers.)
    You already know my thoughts on the ‘defector’ evidence / issue.
    As for the ‘Expert Witness’ – well that’s an area your counsel should have challenged were there any doubts whatever at the time.

    BUT – I personally have two questions for you which you may or may not wish to answer >

    For what reason did you & Pam travel to Vienna / Austria ??

    Was this the first time you & your wife have traveled to Austria ??

  6. Well, we had Tony Blair on UK TV today, saying what a great thing he did by removing Saddam Hussein. I was no supporter of Saddam, but I didn’t want to see him removed if thousands of innocent civilians had to die as a result.

    Regarding expert witnesses. I didn’t realise that this was even an issue until I had experienced the effect of expert evidence during my own trial. Later, I noticed in other cases, where “expert” witnesses were used, that this was designed to damage the defence case. What I now believe is that, when there is an expert witness, then you really need an expert jury to understand how to interpret that evidence.

    In my own case, I am well aware that Professor Meirion Francis Lewis gave false evidence during my trial. Remember that I am also an Electronics Engineer graduate. I have offered Lewis the opportunity to rebut my claim, but he has declined to do so. I intend, and will expose Lewis as a liar in the near future.

    You also have to account for the fact that (Dame) Stella Rimington gave evidence (under oath) at my trial (she appeared in a ridiculous disguise costume!), and she testified that MI5 had no evidence that I had ever met Viktor Oshchenko, or any Russian SVR or KGB officers. So, the jury had to convict me on the basis that they knew BETTER than MI5, and that evidence may exist to prove a link between myself and the SVR, but that MI5 didn’t possess that evidence? Why, because perhaps MI5 are such idiots that they have these things under their noses and do not recognise them?

    I have to assume – I cannot prove – that I was given a 20 year-sentence because MI5 believed I had leaked information about the UK’s nuclear weapon. Because – in reality – that evidence did not exist, and MI5 concocted a case that claimed to prove I had given information to someone (who?) that related to Britain’s ALARM missile, and Rapier. I will not go into the minutiae of the other evidence, because it becomes so detailed and stupid – it was available from public domain sources, and so the Russians could get it from a local library..

    Regarding Vienna. I went to Vienna, on a long-weekend holiday organised by Thomson (I think). I did a lot of site-seeing, but after 30+ years, it will be difficult for me to be precise about exactly where I went. I went to Vienna in early August 1979 (again, I believe). this was about 3 months before I married Pam, and she did not accompany me. I do not think my ex-wife Pam has ever been to Austria (you will have to ask her). I can tell you that I passed through Austria on an earlier holiday in 1970. I was travelling with a Welsh guy, who I met hitch-hiking, and we got a great lift between Belgium and Salzburg, with a man who worked at the Law Reform Society (he was keen on the Saltzberg Festival and left us outside the town). We then got a lift with a Belgium woman and her daughter (travelling in a 2CV), and she dropped me off in Yugoslavia, just South of Graz. I met up with a friend from school in Ljubljana 2 weeks later. I can go into more detail if it will help.?

    Also, the evidence presented at my trial was rubbished by an ex-CIA officer (a defence expert), who gave evidence that the details had been exaggerated to prove a point in favour of the Prosecution. This ex-CIA officer was not named (he was called “Mr P”), but I believe he was the expert named elsewhere as Gerard P. Burke. Perhaps your questions about Vienna would best be directed at Mr Burke?

  7. I can perfectly understand, if the answer comes back that Mr Burke had to lie at my trial because he was paid to do so! You see, I am so sceptical these days.

  8. Let me also say. When you are aware that somebody has lied to gain your conviction, and you know that you have been sentenced to 20 years based on lies. That is something that it is not easy to forget, or forgive.

  9. John Hansen says:

    Interesting! But spies, Russian or otherwise, need something to do, so no doubt they are all over the place on their British “vacations.” :)

    As for Michael and Peter’s thread: fascinating!

  10. Peter Wallerberger says:

    I can well understand why you are sceptical Michael. I also believe that after what you have endured you most surely will suffer a form of “persecution complex” for the remainder of your natural life. It’s just my opinion & I don’t mean that comment to be taken by you as being offensive.
    I look forward to meeting you when I am next in London as there is so much more ground to cover and we are all widely digressing from this forum’s original discussion Topic.

    Thanks for the comment John Hansen – – you are correct – spies do need to be gainfully employed – especially Mossad operatives who are experts when it comes to organiseing
    complex ‘vacations’ !!

  11. Paul says:

    I note in the Guardian piece that Gordievsky claims “There are 37 KGB men in London at the moment. Another 14 work for GRU [Russian military intelligence]” in the Russian embassy in Kensington Palace Gardens.

    What about in the Russian Trade Delegation 32-33 Highgate West Hill where a number of KGB officers were previously excluded; or perhaps the Russo-British Chamber of Commerce (Российско-британская торговая палата) at 11 Belgrave Road, London SW1W 1RB? Spies in Embassies?

    That’s a surprise Mr Gordievsky?

    I’ll bet you think FAPSI is still inhabiting 16 KPG too. Bad luck mate, the antennae were removed years ago, as was the south facing satellite dish hidden in the garden. It looks quite respectable now even though it still has cars bearibg the diplo plates 248Dnnn parked outside.

    Line X is still a goer too. Having been approached myself, and I would have dated the young lady too if my colleague hadn’t have said to her “Would you care to be our agent in Russia?”

    Her polished accent dropped immediately with her reply of “Agent, agent? You must be wanting to get me into trouble.” And off, smartly, the translucent bloused, short tartan skirted leggy brunette blonde trotted.
    Straight down the drive, into a car and away. It was easily -2deg outside.

    So Mr Gordievsky, what has changed since your day, apart from the methods and the personel?

    You’ll even agree that KPG is brimming with spies, why you’ve even got the Mossad at the lower end. You must be hard up for cash to have offered that piece to the Guardian.

    And what a spiffing transceiver the East German Embassy had in it; I’ll bet the Russian offering in the Embassy building at KPG is just as good…….but you’ll not say, will you. Of course if you wish to spill the beans please contact me.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Gordievsky has long ago expended his usefulness with regards to intel. Other than being a MI spokes-tool parrotting whatever he is told to say, he has no value whatsoever. He is and has been a paid liar from day one.

  13. Peter Wallerberger says:

    Interesting comments Paul !! Perhaps what the gentleman in question meant was there were 37 SVR agents in London and 14 GRU operatives “that M.I 5 actually know about – officially” !!
    Though any good Russian should be reading the propaganda briefing papers – from ‘Right to Left’
    that then gives us a figure of 73 SVR and 41 GRU.

    In reality one would have to be a simpleton if one imagined that the number of Russian agents as large in London were less than 150 !!(I guess one could flick a copy of the news report too
    President Puttin for verification – you might be surprised how quick & clinical his reply will be !!)

    As for your comment – Anonymouse – Anyone who speaks fluently in Five different languages
    does have considerable value to offer to M.I 5 / M.I 6 – and – Yes , he does have to ‘sing for his supper’ – that was part of the deal.(It’s ironic nonetheless that your taxes actually pay for his supper !!) I’m sure that fact of life is really going to cheer you up Paul !!

  14. Why only such a small amount Peter,

    I remember 105 being kicked out in one go September 1971.

    That I pay for Gordievsky means I’m something he’s not ….. indispensible :)

  15. Peter Wallerberger says:

    If you include their informers Paul – then one is looking at a potentially scary figure !! (‘But I don’t want to scare you into the ‘Reds under the Beds’ mindset.)

    The mass expulsions of Soviet “Diplomats” from London in 1971 was initiated by Mr Lyalin;s defection ( I note he didn’t exactly grow old gracefully either – I wonder what became of his secretary who played a large part in his descision ??).

    Approx staffing of the Embassy was 550. 90 ‘diplomats’ were expelled and a further 20; out of the country at the time, were denied re – entry to Britain. (depending on what newspaper you read !!) Obviously the 550 embassy staff level does not include soviet ‘illegals’ operating in London at the time.

    ** Perhaps of interest to readers is the following: As a result of this KGB intelligence disaster
    the ‘Senior Counsellor’ at the embassy ; Mr Oleg Gordievsky decided to also defect to M.I.5 ( or if you wish to use gentalman’s language – Mr Gordievsky sought asylum in Britain)
    (probably a wise move as his future – had he returned to Moscow – would have made life in a Siberian Gulag look like a veritable holiday camp )

    It may be of interest to Michael John Smith that one report regarding Gordievsky noted the following: “But British officials noted that the KGB does not direct agents concerned with military matters, and Gordievsky, despite his seniority, would probably be unaware of their activities”
    (Sept 13 1985 Article)

    Rather interesting observation Michael ??

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