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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Before he was the KGB’s top analyst, Lt. Gen. Nikolai Sergeevich Leonov was a field officer of the First Chief Directorate specializing in Latin America. With experience in Mexico and ties to Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Leonov was a key player in the USSR’s strategy of prying Latin America from Washington’s grip. In 1968 a left-leaning military junta came to power in Peru – shortly thereafter, Leonov was sent to Lima on a fact-finding mission under journalistic cover.
I returned to Moscow at the very end of 1968, and I had just turned 40. My time in the service seemed to be going without any problems. Soon I was appointed the deputy chief of the Latin American Department. Such a promotion was unprecedented – I had immediately jumped through two positions. But at that time, I apparently ascribed to the maxim later formulated by future First Chief Directorate head Leonid Shebarshin: “Don’t ask for anything, and don’t refuse anything.” I still wholeheartedly believed that “the leadership saw things the clearest,” and consequently, it would know what to do.
Continue reading Special Mission to Peru →
KGB officer Vadim Nikolaevich Sopryakov – “Comrade Maxim” – tells of a key recruitment he made in 1968 while serving under diplomatic cover in Delhi, India. Sopryakov, a retired captain first rank, began his service in the KGB Border Guards naval units, then transferring to the First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence), and even serving in the elite Directorate S (Illegals) and spetsnaz. In his account of his time in India, Sopryakov sheds light on the practical psychology applied by an intelligence officer for recruiting potential agents, in this case “Mr. B.,” whom the KGB would code-name “Herman.”
On the next-to-last day of a 1967 coming to its end, the Soviet intelligence resident in Delhi received an assignment from the Center:
Pinpoint individual “B.” Collect characteristics on him. Determine the expediency and practical possibility of his development for recruitment. Report on results.
Continue reading The KGB in India: A Recruitment Account →
Journalist and retired Soviet military intelligence (GRU) Colonel Nikolai Poroskov provides the inside story of Swedish Air Force Colonel Stig Wennerström, who ferreted out NATO secrets for the GRU for nearly 15 years from 1948 to 1962. Poroskov relies on the first-hand testimony of Wennerström’s case officer and friend, GRU General Vitaly Nikolsky.
On June 13th, 1952, a Soviet Mig-15 interceptor shot down a Swedish Douglas DC-3 on a reconnaissance mission over the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea. There were eight crew members on board. At that time the Swedes announced that the plane was carrying out a training flight.
A half-century later, in 2003, 55 kilometers east of Gotland the Swedes uncovered the body of the airplane and raised it from a depth of 126 meters. The tail end of the vehicle was torn to pieces by machine gun fire. The bodies of four men were found; the fate of the other four has remained unknown.
Continue reading The GRU’s “Viking” Spy in NATO →
KGB Maj. Gen. Yuri Drozdov, the legendary chief of Directorate S (Illegals), reflects on his time as KGB resident under diplomatic cover in Beijing from 1964 to 1968. Drozdov navigates the directed chaos of Mao’s Cultural Revolution and warns Moscow that China is planning for military action against the Soviet Union.
After my return from Germany, despite positive results at work, I was unable to find a place in Illegal Intelligence’s central apparatus. I was a newcomer for them – experienced, but still a newcomer, and such men weren’t selected with enthusiasm. Along with that, the leadership at that time knew of my views on organizing work and using illegals, which was taken by certain ranking officers in 1963 warily and with caution.
I didn’t argue and was sent by the Cadres Directorate to Operational Staff Qualification Courses (USO). Training in classes and an abundance of free time gave me the possibility to verify the correctness of my views and familiarize myself with the views on organization and intelligence collection of other intelligence officers.
Continue reading The KGB & the Sino-Soviet Split →
Recently I was fortunate to go on Red Ice Radio with Henrik Palmgren. Henrik and I discussed Soviet intelligence operations, specifically the history of illegals, deep politics and geostrategy, and the course of Russian and Western culture.
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.
Continue reading Soviet Intelligence on the Eve of WWII →
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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Directorate S, also known as the Illegals Directorate, was the elite of the KGB’s First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence). Journalist Konstantin Kapitonov was able to interview one of its chiefs, Lt. Gen. Vadim Alekseevich Kirpichenko (1922-2005) about his time at the head of the Illegals Directorate during the 1970s.
In March of 1974 Kirpichenko was called to Moscow to report to KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov. With discretion Andropov asked about what was happening in Egypt and how Soviet-Egyptian relations would unfold.
Continue reading Inside KGB Directorate S: The Illegals →
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.
Continue reading The Great CIA Molehunt →