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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 his 1994 memoir, The First Directorate, he discussed several then-unknown Americans who had worked as Soviet agents, including a 1960s National Security Agency employee he did not name.

In 1996, when Robert Lipka was arrested and charged with espionage, prosecutors hinted that Kalugin's book had been helpful. In fact, documents show the FBI had gotten Lipka's name from another defector before the book came out.

Last year, when retired U.S. Army Reserve Col. George Trofimoff was tried for spying for the Soviet Union and Russia for 25 years, federal prosecutors subpoenaed Kalugin to testify. Kalugin reluctantly agreed, because he had decided to seek U.S. citizenship.

While Kalugin's testimony that Trofimoff was an important spy was not crucial to convicting him, it infuriated Kalugin's former KGB colleagues.

According to Kalugin's court-appointed lawyer - who hasn't bothered to call his client - the treason case is based largely on Kalugin's testimony against Trofimoff and the vague mention of Lipka in his book.

But Kalugin doesn't like to dwell long on unpleasantries. A charming, talkative man with a big and ready laugh, he prefers to bustle about showing off mementos of a spy's life. There's the framed commendation he got in 1959 marking his year as a Fulbright scholar at Columbia University and the photo of him with Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev in 1960 as Radio Moscow correspondent at the United Nations.

Those were his first cover assignments. He did them so well that The New York Times wrote a profile of him, calling him "a real personality kid."

Then there's the 1979 KGB certificate enrolling him in the "book of honor," noting that his portrait would be hung in a special room at KGB headquarters with those of other top spies.

"Now I guess they moved my picture to the traitors' room," he says, laughing. "Irony of history."

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