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 The latter was rescinded when it became clear that their parents’ Canadian passports were fraudulent.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

Advertisements

Senior Russian intelligence defector to the US is allegedly dead

Aleksandr PoteyevA Russian former senior intelligence officer, who reportedly defected to the United States after helping the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrest 10 Russian spies in 2010, is believed to have died. The arrests, which revealed the so-called “Russian illegals program” in the US, were part of a counterintelligence operation codenamed GHOST STORIES by the FBI. The operation culminated in June 2010 with the dramatic arrests of 10 Russian ‘illegals’ in several US states. The Russian illegals, deep-cover intelligence operatives with no official connection to the country that employs them, had been operating in the US for over a decade prior to their arrest, using passports from third countries, including Britain, Canada and Uruguay. They were eventually exchanged with spies for the West that had been imprisoned in Russia.

Moscow blamed the arrests of the illegals on Colonel Aleksandr Poteyev, a veteran of the Soviet war in Afghanistan, who rose through the ranks of the KGB and its successor agency, the SVR, to become second-in-command in the so-called Department S. The senior leaders of Department S are believed to be appointed directly by the president of Russia, and are tasked with directing the activities of all Russian illegals operating abroad. According to the Russian government, which tried Poteyev in absentia in 2011, he began working for the US Central Intelligence Agency in 1999, shortly before entering the senior echelons of Department S.

A panel of judges was told during Poteyev’s Moscow trial that he left Russia without permission on June 24, 2010, just days before the FBI arrested the 10 Russian illegals in the US. He initially went to Belarus, from where he notified his unsuspecting wife via a text sent from a mobile phone that he was leaving Russia for good. He then traveled to Ukraine and from there to Germany, where he was allegedly picked up by his American CIA handler. It is believed that was provided with a new identity and passport, which he used to enter the US. By the time the Russians sentenced him to 25 years in prison for treason, Poteyev was adjusting to his new life in America.

But on July 7, the Moscow-based Interfax news agency reported that Poteyev, had died in the US, aged 64. The brief report did not specify the cause of Poteyev’s alleged death, nor did it state how Interfax acquired the information. Since the report was issued, no confirmation of Poteyev’s purported death has appeared from any other news source, or from government agencies. Russia’s Sputnik News contacted the SVR last week, but the agency declined to comment. It is believed that Poteyev’s two children were working in the US at the time of his defection, and that they are still living in the country.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 11 July 2016 | Permalink

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

Guest Comment: Radio Still Medium of Choice for Many Spies

Typical Cold-War-era advert of Radio Moscow By PAUL BEAUMONT* | intelNews.org |
In 1975 whilst the Cold War was still being fought, short wave listeners were treated nightly to whatever stations they chose to listen to from wherever, propagation permitting. These broadcast stations carried a catholic mix of information, political views and insights, propaganda, religious ideology (usually with a political point) and music and other cultural statements of the government of the day. Broadcast stations with good signals were the BBC World Service, Voice of America, and Radio Moscow. But not all was as it seemed. Radio Moscow used very high powers so that those furthest from their transmitters still received signals at good strength whilst the propagation conditions ensured the frequencies were selected for the most efficient transfer of radio programs. One could sit in one’s armchair with no more than a telescopic antenna raised from the radio set and hear news from a foreign station and quickly retuning, could hear the same news but with a totally different bent. Even the music was not what it seemed, especially for two particular British spies, one being Frank Clifton Bossard, an officer with Britain’s Ministry of Defence Missile Guidance Branch, the other John Symonds, an ex-Detective Sergeant wanted in connection with Operation COUNTRYMAN.  Bossard was strapped for cash and approached the KGB, whilst finding himself overseas with no funds Symonds found himself working for the KGB as a ‘Romeo Spy’ seducing wives of diplomats for information. Interestingly MI5 denied that Symonds acted as he did and suggested such actions were a figment of John Symonds’ imagination. Read more of this post

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

Dutch diplomat arrested for spying for Russia

Anna ChapmanBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Authorities in Holland have arrested a Dutch diplomat who is said to have worked for the same Russian intelligence unit that handled a group of Russian sleeper agents captured in the United States in 2010. The 60-year-old diplomat, who has been publicly identified only as Raymond P., was arrested over the weekend in The Hague following an extensive investigation by German counterintelligence. According to German newsmagazine Focus, which first aired the story on Saturday, the diplomat is believed to have given nearly 500 classified documents to Andreas and Heidrun Anschlag, two Russian intelligence officers operating in Germany. The Anschlags, who are married to each other, and are believed to be Mexican-born, were arrested in October of 2011 in the university town of Marburg in central Germany. They are thought to have moved to Germany from Mexico in 1990, using false Austrian passports supplied to them by the SVR, the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. At the time of the Anschlags’ arrest, Russian media claimed that the couple had “effectively retired” from the SVR several years ago and were being utilized mostly as message couriers. It now appears that Raymond P. was one of their informants, and that the three operated as part of the same espionage ring in Germany. Interestingly, the Anschlags were also said to be in frequent contact with Russian intelligence agent Anna Chapman (pictured), who was arrested by the FBI in the US in 2010. Chapman was part of a group of 11 Russian sleeper agents who were arrested on the same day by the FBI, and were later expelled to Russia. Read more of this post

US revokes Peruvian ex-defense minister’s visa over alleged spy links

Vicky Peláez and  Mikhail VasenkovBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
The United States has allegedly revoked an entry visa previously issued to the former Deputy Minister of Defense of Peru, over suspicions that he is connected to a major Russian espionage ring found operating in the United States. Fabián Novak had his visa revoked after he was allegedly included on a list drawn by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, containing names of individuals connected to a Russian illegals program caught operating in the US in 2010. According to El Comercio, Peru’s oldest newspaper, Novak, who served as the country’s Deputy Defense Minster between 2006 and 2008, met repeatedly with two members of the 11-member Russian spy ring, which was busted in a series of coordinated raids across several US states in July of 2010. The Lima-based daily quotes an anonymous “high-level [US] government source” who claims that Novak directly contacted two of the 11 Russian spies, who entered the United States from Peru, using Uruguayan and Peruvian travel documentation. The two, Vicky Peláez, who posed as a journalist, and her husband Mikhail Anatolyevich Vasenkov (alias Juan Lazaro), an adjunct professor, were among nearly a dozen Russian illegals swapped less than two weeks after their arrests by the FBI with several CIA spies held in Russian prisons. The El Comercio source claimed that, according to the FBI, Novak met with two officials from the Russian embassy in Lima at least twice, in 2001 and 2006, to discuss the activities of Peláez and Vasenkov in the US. Read more of this post