A Double Agent—the Queen's Man in the KGB—Runs for Home
Oleg Gordievsky was never your typical Soviet diplomat about town. Unlike his colleagues in London's Soviet embassy, who wore stylish Western clothes as if they were hand-me-downs, Gordievsky, 46, had a penchant for snappy Savile Row suits and silk ties, and he carried them well. Says British journalist Colin Narbrough, who knew Gordievsky, "He was the very model of a successful Westerner: wealthy, well-educated and enjoying a successful career. He talked about his Russian homeland with some distaste." Ironically, his smooth adaptation to the West seems to have been more than superficial. The British Foreign Office recently announced an extraordinary intelligence coup: Gordievsky had defected and "was in a position to know full details of Soviet intelligence activities and personnel" in Britain.
Undercover as a counselor in the Soviet embassy, Gordievsky had been the KGB's spy master in London, overseeing Russia's network of agents throughout Britain. His defection, which prompted tit-for-tat expulsions of spy/diplomats by Whitehall and the Kremlin, was a sort of counterbalance to the betrayal of British intelligence 22 years ago by the infamous Kim Philby, a KGB mole who burrowed into the top levels of MI6 before fleeing to Moscow. Gordievsky is thought to be the highest-ranking KGB officer ever to turn. His defection, which actually took place in early August, may have triggered the recent Iron Curtain-hopping by West Germany's senior counterintelligence officer Hans Joachim Tiedge and other government functionaries, who probably feared exposure as East German agents. But perhaps most intriguing of all was the revelation that for more than 10 years, Gordievsky had in fact been spying for the West as a double agent.
A 1963 graduate of the KGB's Moscow training school, Gordievsky was working for the West by the early 1970s, when he was posted to Copenhagen as a Soviet press attaché. "A couple of bottles of vodka on the table, the Rolling Stones on the stereo, and Oleg started to resemble a human being," recalls Danish artist Klaus Nybo, an acquaintance. "He was otherwise very nervous and highly strung. It was always in the cards that he was a KGB man. One day he even showed me his pistol." In 1982 Gordievsky moved to London with his wife and two children; as of last week there were conflicting reports of their whereabouts. There's no telling how high he might have risen in the KGB had he been kept in place, but British intelligence evidently feared his life was in danger. As for his future, says former British agent Greville Wynne, "Gordievsky will want for nothing for the rest of his life."
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