How did the KGB train its deep-cover officers to pose, operate and live under the guise of foreign nationalities? Former KGB Chairman Vladimir Efimovich Semichastny (1924-2001) describes how the KGB First Chief Directorate’s elite Directorate S processed, prepared and deployed illegal officers for work abroad in the field – without the protection of the Soviet embassy or Moscow Center.
Our nation’s intelligence was distinguished by one particularity that could be discovered only extremely rarely in the practices of other secret services. This concerns the training and use of so-called “illegals” – Soviet citizens who settled in other countries under assumed names, thereby allowing us to create the consummate agent network. Such a network couldn’t be uncovered by the Western counterintelligence services that were orbiting mainly around our embassies; representations; trade missions; bureaus; and press agencies. Continue reading KGB Directorate S: Training an Illegal
Veteran chief of the KGB’s elite Alpha Group Maj. Gen. Gennady Nikolaevich Zaitsev recounts the 1977 operation to arrest CIA intelligence officer Martha Peterson, who worked out of the US Embassy under diplomatic cover. Peterson had been handling a valuable agent – Aleksandr Ogorodnik, code-named Trigon, a highly-placed staffer at the Soviet Foreign Ministry. Little did Peterson know at the time that Ogorodnik had already been arrested and committed suicide in custody with poison supplied from Langley. The trap carefully laid by the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate was set…
It so happened that I had the opportunity to participate in an arrest of a spy even before joining the spetsnaz Alpha Group. At that time, I served in the Seventh Directorate of the KGB of the USSR. Do you remember the film TASS is Authorized to Declare …? It told the story of how the KGB exposed Trigon, an enemy agent. In reality, this was Alexander Ogorodnik (Trigon), a staff member at the American Department of the Directorate for Planning Foreign Policy Measures at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He committed suicide during arrest. Continue reading The Spy with the Broken Bracelet
Spetsnaz Group “Alpha” was founded in 1974 on the orders of KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov. As this article by KGB veteran Lt. Col. Igor Atamenenko makes clear, Alpha was not only a secretive anti-terror force, but also the high-class muscle used in the KGB’s counterintelligence operations against foreign intelligence services.
Even the KGB’s overseers from the CPSU Central Committee’s department of administrative organs were not informed of the true purpose of the Group “A,” Lubyanka’s super-secret unit that attained wide publicity under the name of Alpha only after the events of August 1991 in Moscow. For them it was just one of the structures within the KGB, and many operations executed by its officers also remain a closely-guarded secret to this day, continuing to to carry the stamp “Top Secret” and “Of Special Importance.”
Continue reading Spy Snatchers: KGB Alpha Group
Vympel, the KGB’s spetsnaz group for overseas action, was a unit forged, in the words of its initiator KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov, “without equal.” The following text outlines Vympel’s founding, the unit’s training process, and its general operational history.
The idea for founding a commando unit for the KGB belongs to the chief of Directorate S (Illegals) Yuri Drozdov, one of the men who directed the storm of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin’s palace. Returning from Moscow, he went to KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov and presented him with a plan to create a special-purpose group for carrying out operations during the “special period” – in short, a commando unit.
Continue reading Vympel: The KGB’s Sword Abroad
KGB Maj. Gen. Yuri Ivanovich Drozdov is known as a “living legend” of Soviet intelligence. Having himself operated under German identities, Drozdov worked as the KGB resident in China and the United States before eventually becoming the head of Directorate S, the famed Illegals, where he also founded the special commando unit Vympel. The following interview was conducted in September of 2010 on the occasion of his 85th birthday.
Yuri Ivanovich, first of all, thank you for sending your new book Operation President: From Cold War to Reset. I came to congratulate you on your 85th birthday, and as before, you’re at work.
My wife is still trying to convince me: “Enough, quit.” And I constantly answer the truth: if I leave, I’ll die. As previously I’m directing the independent consulting and marketing agency Namakon. And I write books.
Serious ones, concerning history, politics, Russia’s strategic development. But nonetheless I’d like to speak with you…
About intelligence I’ve told everything that’s allowed. Or almost everything.
Continue reading Interview with a Soviet Spymaster
KGB Lt. Gen. Leonid Vladimirovich Shebarshin (1935-2012) was an experienced specialist on South Asia and Iran and would become the last chief of the Soviet KGB’s First Chief Directorate (Foreign Intelligence) in 1989. In his memoirs, Shebarshin recalls his time training at the KGB’s 101st Intelligence School in 1962.
101 – That was the name of the intelligence school subsequently transformed into the KGB’s Yuri Andropov Red Banner Institute.
For the first time in my life I was quartered in a dormitory. In the two-story wooden house of pre-war construction, the walls were starting to become dilapidated, in places the floors would bend, but it was warm and cozy in the winter, and in the spring lilac branches would brush against the windows.
Continue reading Inside The KGB’s Intelligence School
In the twilight arena of international espionage, one name more than any other evokes an image of patient, masterful treachery, the insidious presence of the enemy in one’s own inner sanctum. No matter the country they serve, generations of intelligence and counterintelligence trainees have been expected to know this name well: Philby. For half a century now, Harold Adrian Russell “Kim” Philby (1912-1988) remains both in espionage history and popular literature the quintessential mole, the deep-penetration agent who buried his way to the top of British intelligence to provide Soviet Russia with the Crown’s most guarded secrets. The shock of Philby’s treason reverberated throughout the British establishment, while in retrospective the affair tells us more about the social, cultural, and spiritual depravity of an entire ruling elite than just the sordid exploits of a spy.
Continue reading Philby and the Betrayal of the West
The FBI’s recent arrest of several alleged deep-cover Russian intelligence officers, also known as “illegals”, has provoked astonishment in the media. As if U.S. intelligence agencies would ever dream of carrying out covert work in Russia! Since the memory span of reporters and pundits rarely extends beyond a few weeks, perhaps this is understandable. But it should come as no surprise that spying remains an important tool of statecraft. As exemplified by the illegals, the Russians are top players in the game of human intelligence.
Continue reading The Illegals: Russia’s Elite Spies