Senior Soviet KGB ex-official found dead in Moscow apartment

Leonid ShebarshinBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Leonid Shebarshin, a retired General of the KGB, who was often referred to as “the last Soviet spy” was found dead in his downtown Moscow apartment over the weekend. Police said a pistol and an apparent suicide note were found next to his body. In a separate statement on Saturday, law enforcement investigators said Shebarshin had shot himself. Born in 1935, Shebarshin was posted as an interpreter at the Soviet embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, shortly after graduating from the Moscow Institute of International Relations. He eventually became personal assistant to the Soviet Ambassador to Pakistan, who recommended him to the KGB. Shebarshin returned to Moscow in 1962 to attend the KGB’s training school, before being sent back to Pakistan in 1964, this time as an intelligence officer. In 1975, he moved to India, where he became rezident (station chief) of the KGB’s field station in New Delhi. Two years later he was transferred to the KGB’s field station in Tehran, Iran, which he headed through the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In 1982, however, his meteoric rise within the ranks of the KGB was temporarily halted by the defection of Soviet Vladimir Kuzichkin, a Major in the KGB, who escaped to Turkey with the help of the British Secret Intelligence Service —also known as MI6. The British brought Kuzichkin in contact with the CIA, which in turn passed along the defector’s debriefing notes to the government of Iran. This information led to the summary expulsion from Tehran of nearly 20 Soviet KGB field officers, including Shebarshin himself. After a brief period in Moscow, Shebarshin returned to the field, this time to Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, where he traveled at least 20 times. He was in Russia on August 19, 1991, during the so-called ‘August coup’, when a group of hardline communist officials took power in Moscow and temporarily arrested Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev. But, even though he headed the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (now renamed to Foreign Intelligence Service), Shebarshin persisted in remaining neutral during the coup, and spent all of August 19 playing tennis at his summer residence. Read more of this post

Lithuania recalls Austria ambassador over ex-KGB general’s release

Mikhail Golovatov

Mikhail Golovatov

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The government of Lithuania has recalled its ambassador to Vienna, in protest over the release by Austria of a former Soviet intelligence official, who is wanted in Vilnius for war crimes. Last Thursday, Austrian authorities arrested Russian citizen Mikhail Golovatov, a former general of the KGB, who was stationed in Lithuania during the final years of the Soviet Union. Golovatov’s detention was facilitated by a European arrest warrant issued by the office of the Lithuanian prosecutor. The latter accuses Golovatov of authorizing crimes of war as head of Alpha Group —also known as Spetsnaz Grupp Alfa— a special forces unit within the KGB’s First Chief Directorate. On January 13, 1991, Alpha Group forces spearheaded a counterinsurgency attack on the State Radio and Television Building and the Vilnius TV Tower in the Lithuanian capital, in an attempt to quash the Soviet Republic’s growing secessionist movement. The latter had unilaterally declared Lithuania’s independence on March 11, 1990. The attack resulted in the death of 14 and the injury of over 700 people. During the past two decades, the Lithuanian state has sponsored an international campaign for the arrest of numerous officials who represented the Soviet security apparatus in Lithuania during the final months of the USSR’s existence. But, to Vilnius’ shock, Austrian authorities released Golovatov 24 hours after arresting him, arguing that the European arrest warrant issued by the Lithuanian prosecutor’s office was “too vague” to justify the former KGB general’s continued detention. Read more of this post

Analysis: Assessing the record of Russian espionage

R. Kupchinsky

R. Kupchinsky

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Roman Kupchinsky has penned an article for The Prague Post, in which he examines the recent expulsion of two Russian spies from the Czech Republic as part of a broader decline in Russian intelligence operations. The Jamestown Foundation analyst explains that Vladimir Putin’s campaign to rebuild the Russian espionage activities abroad to their former glory has not borne fruits. Rather, the gradual decay in Russia’s global intelligence presence, which began in the early 1980s, continues to mire the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). The SVR is the successor to the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (PGU), which was responsible for foreign operations and intelligence collection. Although Kupchinsky’s view is shared by a many Western intelligence observers, some remain skeptical. Read more of this post