Sons of exposed Russian deep-cover spies want their Canadian citizenship back

FoleyThe sons of a Russian couple, who fraudulently acquired Canadian citizenship before being arrested for espionage in the United States, are seeking to reinstate their Canadian citizenship, which was annulled when their parents were found to be Russian spies. Tim and Alex Vavilov are the sons of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, a married couple arrested in 2010 under Operation GHOST STORIES —a counterintelligence program run by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Following their arrest, their sons, who allegedly grew up thinking their parents were Canadian, were told that their parents were in fact Russian citizens and that their real names were Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. Their English-sounding names and Canadian passports had been forged in the late 1980s by the KGB, the Soviet Union’s primary external intelligence agency.

The two boys were at the family’s home in suburban Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, June 27, 2010, when FBI agents conducted coordinated raids across New England, arresting their parents and eight more Russian ‘illegals’. The term is used to signify Russian non-official-cover operatives, namely intelligence officers who operate abroad without diplomatic cover and typically without connection to the country they spy for. It is now believed that Bezrukov and Vavilova were recruited as a couple in the 1980s by the KGB’s Department S, which operated the agency’s ‘illegals’ program.

But the two brothers, who were born in Canada, are currently involved in a prolonged legal battle to have their Canadian citizenship reinstated. The latter was rescinded when it became clear that their parents’ Canadian passports were fraudulent. According to the Canadian Citizenship Act, children born in Canada to “employees of a foreign government” are not entitled to Canadian nationality. But the brothers argue that they were 20 and 16 when their parents were arrested and were unaware of their double identities. It follows, they told Canada’s newsmagazine Maclean’s in August, that they cannot be punished for their parents’ crimes.

This past June, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal overturned the decision of a lower court and ordered the government to reinstate Alex Vavilov’s Canadian citizenship. Now the government has until September 20 to decide whether to appeal the Federal Court of Appeal’s decision to the Supreme Court. If it does not, or if it upholds the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal, it is thought that Alex’s brother, Tim, will also have his Canadian citizenship reinstated.

But the case may be further-complicated by allegations made by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that Tim was aware of his parents’ espionage activities when they were arrested by the FBI. The CSIS claims that the two Russian spies had groomed Tim to enter the intelligence profession, and that the then-20-year-old had given an oath of allegiance to the SVR —the KGB’s post-Cold-War successor agency. But Tim Vavilov denies he was groomed or “sworn-in” by the Russians, and argues that he has never been presented with evidence of this allegation, even though his parents’ home in Massachusetts was bugged by the FBI for nearly a decade.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 15 September 2017 | Permalink

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Interview with children of Russian deep-cover spies caught in the US

First Post HThe two sons of a Russian couple, who were among 10 deep-cover spies arrested in the United States, have given an interview about their experience for the first time. Tim and Alex Foley (now Vavilov) are the sons of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley, a married couple arrested in 2010 under Operation GHOST STORIES, a counterintelligence program run by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. Following their arrest, their sons, who had grown up thinking their parents were Canadian, were told that they were in fact Russian citizens and that their real names were Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova. Their English-sounding names and Canadian passports had been forged in the late 1980s by the KGB, the Soviet Union’s primary external intelligence agency.

The two boys were at the family’s home in suburban Cambridge, MA, on Sunday, June 27, 2010, when FBI agents conducted coordinated raids across New England, arresting their parents and eight more Russian ‘illegals’. That term is used to signify Russian non-official-cover operatives, namely intelligence officers who operate abroad without diplomatic cover and typically without connection to the country they spy for. It is now believed that Bezrukov and Vavilova were recruited as a couple in the 1980s by the KGB’s Department S, which operated the agency’s ‘illegals’ program. They were trained for several years before being sent to Canada, where their mission was to blend into the society and establish a ‘legend’, a background story of their lives that could be supported by forged documentation supplied by the KGB. In 1995, the family moved to Paris, France, where Bezrukov, using the name Donald Heathfield, earned Master in Business Administration from the École des Ponts. Both their children had been born by 1999, when the family moved to Massachusetts so that Bezrukov could study at Harvard University. He then joined a consultancy firm, which he apparently planned to use as a vehicle in order to get close to influential American lawmakers.

Their two sons, who are now living in unspecified locations in Europe and Singapore, told British newspaper The Guardian that their childhood was “absolutely normal” and that they never suspected their parents of being spies. They told The Guardian’s Shaun Walker that their parents never discussed Russia or the Soviet Union, never ate Russian food, and never met Russian people while in Massachusetts. The sons, whose Russian names are Alexander and Timofei Vavilov, said they remember meeting their grandparents “somewhere in Europe” when they were very young, but that they later disappeared from their lives. Their parents told them that they lived in rural Alberta, Canada, and that they found it difficult to travel.

The two brothers said that, shortly after their parents were arrested by the FBI, they were put on a plane to Moscow. When they arrived there, a group of people appeared on the plane door and introduced themselves to them as “colleagues of their parents”. They were then placed in a van and taken to a Moscow apartment, where they were given information about their parents’ true backgrounds, including photographs of them from their teenage lives and military service in the USSR. It was then, they told The Guardian, that they finally believed that their parents were indeed Russian spies.

The family reunited a few days later in Moscow, after Bezrukov, Vavilova, and the other Russian ‘illegals’ were exchanged with four men held in Russian jails for spying for the West. The two brothers now want to regain their Canadian citizenship, which was taken from them by the government of Canada after their parents were found to have been using forged Canadian citizenship papers. They argue that they feel Canadian, not Russian, and that they are not responsible for their parents’ actions, which were hidden from them until their arrest in 2010.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 09 May 2016 | Permalink

US-based Russian illegals ‘groomed children to be spies’

Yelena Vavilova and Andrey BezrukovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A group of Russian non-official-cover operatives, who were arrested in the United States by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 2010, were grooming some of their children to become spies, according to insider accounts. Nearly a dozen covert members of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), one of the successor agencies of the Cold-War-era KGB, were detained on June 26, 2010, in a series of coordinated raids by the FBI, which marked the culmination of a lengthy counterintelligence operation against the deep-cover operatives. None of those arrested were associated with the diplomatic representation of the Russian Federation in the US; eight were married couples and all were using fake identities. But media coverage of the case, which centered overwhelmingly on the glamorous looks of one of the arrestees, Anna Chapman, paid little attention to the seven children belonging to the captured Russian operatives, whose ages ranged from 1 to 20 years at the time of their parents’ arrests. In an article published late last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that some of the SVR operatives were actively grooming their children to follow in their footsteps as unregistered agents of the Russian government in the US. The paper based its claims on discussions “with current and former US officials”, who allegedly had access to surveillance data from the FBI’s investigation against the Russians. According to the unnamed officials, the SVR operatives had secured the cooperation of at least one of the children, Tim Foley, whose parents operated in the US for over a decade under the assumed names of Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. The couple (real names: Andrey Bezrukov, Elena or Yelena Vavilova) had allegedly revealed their secret mission to their son “well before their arrest” in 2010, and had indicated that “they wanted him to follow in their footsteps”. According to the FBI surveillance records, says The Journal, Tim had agreed and offered to travel to Russia “to begin formal espionage training”. He eventually traveled to the land of his birth at least once following the alleged arrangement with his parents. Read more of this post

Canada memos decry use of Canadian passports by Russian spies

Canadian passport

Canadian passport

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In June of 2010 media headlines were dominated by news of a Russian spy ring in the United States that was busted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. On June 27, eleven people, all sleeper agents of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, were arrested in early morning raids across several US states. The arrestees, who included media sensation Anna Chapman, were later exchanged for four alleged CIA agents serving time in Russian jails. What is less known however, is the fact that four of the members of the busted spy ring were claiming to be Canadian citizens. SVR operative Natalia Pereverzeva was caught using a forged Canadian passport under the fake name ‘Patricia Mills’. Two other SVR officers, Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, were claiming Canadian nationality under the forged names Donald Heathfield and Tracey Foley. A fourth alleged member of the spy ring, ‘Christopher Metsos’, was apprehended in Cyprus, after using a forged Canadian passport to enter the Mediterranean island. He later disappeared, having skipped bail. Now, sixteen months after the arrests of the Russian spies, The Canadian Press has acquired several hundred pages of memoranda and internal emails from Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Substantial portions of the documents, which were acquired through Canada’s Access to Information Act, remain censored; but The Press reports that they show that employees of DFAIT’s Passport Canada office held “urgent meetings and high-level briefings” in the days following the FBI arrests, in order to address the revelations concerning SVR’s illegal use of Canadian passports. In the documents, Canadian officials opine that the use by Russian spies of forged Canadian travel documents poses a “troubling threat to the integrity of Canadian [passports] and identity security”. Read more of this post