Tag Archives: Counterintelligence

The Downfall of Agent Sphere

Lt. Col. Vladimir Nikolaevich Zaitsev, an officer of the KGB’s elite spetsnaz Group A (Alpha), commanded the operation to arrest CIA agent Adolph Tolkachev in 1985. Zaitsev recounts the affair and its strategic significance in the Cold War.


Group A’s very first snatch operation against a “werewolf” was the summer 1985 arrest of Adolph Tolkachev (agent code name [CK] SPHERE), an engineer at a USSR Ministry of Radio Industry scientific research institute – one of the leading specialists in aero-navigational systems.  Continue reading The Downfall of Agent Sphere

The Death of Trigon

Aleksandr Ogorodnik, known as “Trigon” by his CIA handlers, was a Soviet diplomat who was lured into spying for Washington through sexual compromise – a honey trap. Historian Aleksandr Sever provides the inside story of how the KGB Second Chief Directorate (Counterintelligence) tracked and captured Ogorodnik, as well as speculation on his mysterious demise. 


Among the CIA agents unmasked by the KGB, Aleksandr Ogorodnik occupies a special place. It was this man who became the main antagonist in a ten-part Soviet television series. The story of Aleksandr Ogorodnik, as shown on TV screens, was close to what happened in real life. The plot of the TV movie TASS is Authorized to Announce was written on the basis of investigation materials, and Chekists [KGB officers], active participants in the operation to expose the American spy, functioned as consultants. It’s understandable that in the picture the action occurred in a made-up foreign state and the traitor was a nondescript individual, while the basic attention of the viewers was focused on the main positive and negative personages – KGB and CIA officers. Behind the scenes, there remained a multitude of important details of this “noisy” affair.

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Russian Intelligence vs. Napoleon

Napoleon Bonaparte’s fateful invasion of Russia, known as the Fatherland War, was not only a titanic military clash, but also an espionage duel between Russian and French intelligence. The archives of the Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) reveal a classic true spy story set in Napoleon’s Paris, one filled with intrigue, adventure, and stolen secrets.


Alexander I of Russia and Napoleon I of France were the two main protagonists and antipodes of a military-political drama that played out on the battlefields of Europe at the very beginning of the 19th century. Both the Russians and French were watching each other vigilantly, understanding well that confrontation and military conflict were inevitable. In these conditions the acquisition of timely, reliable, and secret information on the designs and actions of the potential adversary took on a significance of the first degree.

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Soviet Intelligence on the Eve of WWII

Pavel Anatolyevich Sudoplatov, chief of NKVD special operations in World War II, gives a strategic overview of Soviet intelligence in the years leading up to the second military cataclysm that would devastate Europe in the twentieth century.


The role of the organs of state security in Soviet history can only be evaluated after the Soviet Union ceased to exist. After Lenin’s death the country’s primary special service was reformed into the Unified State Political Directorate (OGPU). However, as before, it remained the apparatus for enacting political repression both inside the country and abroad. Alongside this, it is very important to understand the repression was viewed by the Party and Soviet leadership as a necessary, forced action, the goal of which was the suppression of political opposition and the strengthening of the Soviet state.

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Romeo Espionage

The following account of romance espionage comes from the archives of the SVR, Russia’s successor service to the Soviet KGB First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence). In 1957 the KGB needed an agent with inside knowledge of NATO defense planning, and it found its source in a pretty, unassuming secretary known to us as Margaret. A “Romeo,” a male agent specializing in seduction, was sent to enlist Margaret in secret work for Soviet intelligence.


The Christmas holidays in Germany, as in all of Europe, are happy, festive ones. Children and adults are occupied by pleasant chores – buying gifts and various games. For the dinner table, traditional Christmas goose is prepared.

But in December of 1957, the KGB resident in Bonn had no time for the holidays. Already a third day he kept by his side a telegram from the Center, which said:

Take measures for the acquisition of necessary information on the latest conference of NATO countries’ chiefs of staff in Brussels on the issue of increasing the number of nuclear weapons in Europe.

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Operation Anadyr: Missile Maskirovka

When Moscow launched the ambitious Operation Anadyr, the deployment of missiles and an army division to Fidel Castro’s revolutionary Cuba in the spring of 1962, the KGB played no minor role in its execution. KGB military counterintelligence (Third Directorate) was responsible for ensuring the secrecy of the movement of Soviet forces, from Odessa and the icy port of Murmansk to the Caribbean tropics. The operation would become a textbook example of Soviet maskirovka (denial and deception). Historian Aleksandr Sever recounts:


Military counterintelligence officers not only had to catch spies, but also secure the integrity of military secrets in “special conditions.” As an example we can name the operation to shift Soviet forces to Cuba.

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The Great CIA Molehunt

KGB Lt. Gen. Vitaly Grigorevich Pavlov (1914-2005), a senior veteran of the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence), gives his view on the “revelations” of Soviet defectors, particularly Anatoly Golitsyn, and the subsequent molehunt that paralyzed the CIA in the 1960s.


The requirements of tradecraft are necessary to carry out not only during specific operations, but also in the course of life, including ordinary life, for a man serving in intelligence. It is my deep conviction that such organization of foreign intelligence work is not only desirable, but the only possible option. And may traitors such as Anatoly Golitsyn, Stanislav Levchenko, and the like not try to attempt to prove that they “know everything.” I can assure you: in over fifty years working in foreign intelligence I learned much, but not everything about its activities. About other units of the former KGB with whom I jointly operated, I know very little concrete, not to speak of great secrets.

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