From Soviet hero to traitor

Spy: On trial in absentia in Moscow, the former KGB general Oleg D. Kalugin now lectures in America.

June 26, 2002|By Scott Shane | Scott Shane,SUN STAFF

In the month that he has been on trial for treason, Oleg D. Kalugin has spent weekends at his Ocean City condo with his daughter and 12-year-old grandson, who are visiting from Moscow. He has gone for his usual long-distance ocean swims.

Back in Washington, the former KGB major general has lectured as usual on Russian politics and intelligence, tended to his consulting business and tried out the new Fresh Fields near his Silver Spring home.

And occasionally, Kalugin, 67, has checked the Web for the latest word on his closed trial in Moscow, where he is represented by a lawyer with whom he has never spoken and where a three- judge panel is expected to hand down his sentence today. The prosecutor is asking for 20 years.

"I'm not concerned," Kalugin said yesterday, spending a peaceful day off in his quiet suburban neighborhood. "I'm not guilty. My conscience is not burdened. And I live in the United States, which has no treaty of extradition with Russia."

His trial, Kalugin says, "is an act of political vengeance," the settling of an old score. "I was never a defector. I never betrayed Russia. But I did what I could to destroy that monster, the KGB."

Kalugin says he has seen Internet postings from Russians who suggest that he be kidnapped, poisoned or perhaps killed with an ice ax - the fate arranged long ago by Josef Stalin for exiled rival Leon Trotsky.

"Really, I think it's just talk," Kalugin says.

The charges against Kalugin, apparently triggered by his testimony last year in a U.S. spy trial, are one more indication of how President Vladimir V. Putin, a career KGB officer, has restored the clout of the security services. Severely tarnished in the late 1980s by media revelations, the KGB received a crushing blow in 1991 when its then-chairman, Vladimir Kryuchkov, was jailed for leading the abortive coup against reformist President Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

But Putin has demonstrated his respect for what he calls the "proud traditions" of the KGB. In January, when he held a Kremlin celebration of Vladimir I. Lenin's founding of the Soviet security services, Kryuchkov sat in the first row.

"I think Kalugin's trial is important," said Amy W. Knight, author of several books on the KGB and adjunct professor at Carleton University in Ontario. "It shows that for all of Putin's so-called reformism and his forward approach to the West, the security services wield a lot of influence."

Putin's rehabilitation of the KGB boded ill for Kalugin, who moved to the United States in 1995 to pursue a teaching job at Catholic University in Washington and a telecommunications venture with AT&T.

Even before his trial, Kalugin said, it had become too dangerous to return to Russia. Putin had told reporters he considered Kalugin a traitor. Kalugin, who recalls Putin as a "pale, expressionless, obedient" junior apparatchik in the KGB, returned the favor by calling him a "war criminal" for his conduct of the war in Chechnya.

In the peculiar crosscurrents left in the wake of the Cold War, there is no one quite like Oleg Danillovich Kalugin.

The youngest KGB general in history, he ran agents from the Soviet Embassy in Washington for years before rising to become chief of foreign counterintelligence. He oversaw the case of John A. Walker Jr., the Navy turncoat who spied for the Soviet Union for 19 years. He supervised the legendary British spy Kim Philby after Philby defected to Moscow. He passed along to subordinates his KGB bosses' orders to provide the poison-tipped umbrella used to assassinate Georgy Markov, a Bulgarian dissident, in London in 1978.

Then, after his intelligence career was sidetracked by Kryuchkov in 1980, he was transferred to St. Petersburg (then Leningrad), where he witnessed first-hand the KGB's role as domestic political police. His disillusionment culminated in a sensational appearance at a political gathering in Moscow in 1990.

Before astonished Russian and foreign correspondents, Kalugin introduced himself as a just-retired KGB officer and proceeded to denounce the agency's pernicious influence over Soviet life. Though his former KGB bosses prepared a treason case against him, Kalugin won swift election to the Soviet parliament, gaining immunity from prosecution.

When Kalugin moved to the United States, he angered CIA and FBI officials by refusing to reveal details of Soviet espionage operations. "I was not cooperating the way they wanted," Kalugin says. "I wouldn't name names of agents."

Yet even as he frustrated some current U.S. intelligence officers, he became a pal of eminent retirees, including two CIA directors, Richard M. Helms and William E. Colby, with whom he collaborated on a computer spy game. He now teaches with former CIA and FBI officers at the Centre for Counterintelligence and Security Studies in Alexandria, Va., and serves with others on the board of the International Spy Museum, opening in Washington next month.

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