Posts Tagged ‘KGB’

Vladimir Putin: From mean streets to power

March 17, 2018

Times of Israel

The ex-KGB agent turned president has made himself indistinguishable from the Kremlin, all but guaranteeing his reelection for a 4th term


Journalists watch as Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address in Manezh in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

Journalists watch as Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address in Manezh in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, March 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

MOSCOW (AP) — As a kid in a dismal Soviet communal apartment, Vladimir Putin was a scrapper who dreamed of being an operator — diligently training in martial arts and boldly walking into a KGB office to inquire about how to become a spy.

As Russia’s leader in the 21st century, he’s been the epitome of both traits — fighting Chechen rebels, directing the annexation of Crimea and, allegedly, approving an extensive and devious campaign to undermine American democracy.

It’s hardly a surprise that he’s expected to easily win election to a fourth term Sunday. The man and the office are indistinguishable.

As Russia’s leader since New Year’s Eve 1999 (he switched to prime minister from 2008-12 but was still seen as being in command) Putin clearly relishes the spotlight. Now 65, his displays of physical prowess such as bare-chested horseback riding have mostly faded away, but the hours-long annual news conferences and call-in shows testify to vigor and discipline. He still enjoys mixing it up in ice hockey games, though he once likened his skating to “a cow on ice.”

Few, if any, politicians have stepped more quickly from the shadows into rapt attention at home and abroad. Before being named President Boris Yeltsin’s prime minister in August 1999, he had been head of the Federal Security Service, one of the KGB’s successor agencies, which inherently is not a high-visibility position.

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses the Federal Assembly at Moscow’s Manezh exhibition center on March 01, 2018. (AFP Photo/Yuri Kadobnov)

Many observers pegged him as a gray mediocrity at the time, laughingly suggesting that his service with the KGB on the friendly turf of East Germany suggested he had not been very adroit as an intelligence agent. Yeltsin shuffled prime ministers at an alarming rate, and Putin might have been just the latest through the revolving door.

But the next month, he showed himself when commenting on the early days of the second war against Chechen rebels, saying “if we capture them in the toilet then we will waste them in the outhouse.” Adamant, macho, and a touch of crude language — the remark seemed to reveal the essence of Putin that was formed in his youth.

When he became acting president upon Yeltsin’s resignation, his language was more refined but his mien just as tough. “I want to warn that any attempts to go beyond Russian law … will be decisively repressed,” he said.

Putin was born Oct. 7, 1952, to factory-worker parents in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, a city pervaded by memories of the horrific suffering of the nearly 900-day Nazi siege in World War II. One of Putin’s elder brothers died of diphtheria during the siege and the other died a few months after birth. According to “First Person,” interviews published after he became acting president, Putin and his parents lived in a dismal communal apartment with a wretched toilet down the hall.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (right) leaves the Kremlin after announcing his early resignation as head of state and the temporary transfer of his powers to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (left), December 31, 1999. (Photograph: ITAR-TASS/Wikipedia)

Putin said he responded to these rough circumstances by becoming a childhood “hooligan,” one of the few in his school not allowed into the Communist Young Pioneers. In his early adolescence, Putin channeled his aggressive tendencies into the martial arts, a sport he practiced avidly into late middle-age.

As a teen, Putin aspired to join the KGB — apparently more for adventure than out of ideology — and succeeded after graduating from Leningrad University’s law faculty in 1975.

Putin worked in counterintelligence, monitored foreigners in Leningrad and in 1985 started his post in Dresden. He returned to Leningrad in 1990 and started work for the city’s reformist mayor. Putin resigned from the KGB a year later, on the second day of the abortive coup attempt against Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, which was backed by the KGB.

In 1983 Putin married Lyudmila Skrebneva, an Aeroflot flight attendant who later became a university lecturer in German. Thirty years later, the couple appeared on state TV in a faux-casual interview to announce their marriage was ending; Putin was reportedly too devoted to his job to be an attentive husband.

An activist distributes election leaflets in support of presidential candidate, President Vladimir Putin on a street in downtown Moscow on March 16, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / Yuri KADOBNOV)

Despite rumors of a dalliance with a female gymnastics star, Putin publicly presents himself as upright and abstemious. He is only rarely seen with a glass of vodka and almost never actually drinking.

Although reports have suggested that Putin has accumulated vast wealth, he shows little taste for real ostentation outside the gilded halls of the Kremlin. His public face is an older, better-fed version of the tough teen from a bad part of town, determined to dominate.


How Kaspersky’s Software Fell Under Suspicion of Spying on America

January 5, 2018

Officials lack conclusive evidence, but incidents involving the firm’s antivirus products raised alarms

 Image result for Eugene Kaspersky, photos
Kaspersky CEO Warned of Cyber Attacks on 2017 European Elections
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs, said European governments should expect highly sophisticated cyber attacks during their elections. (Originally published Jan 1, 2017.) Photo: Bloomberg News.

Eugene Kaspersky was late for his own dinner party.

Eugene Kaspersky at his company’s Moscow headquarters in 2017.Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

At his invitation, guests from the Washington cybersecurity community waited one evening in 2012. Seated at the National Press Club were officials from the White House, State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies, said people who were there. Guests had started their first course when Mr. Kaspersky arrived, wearing a tuxedo with a drink in hand.

Mr. Kaspersky, chief executive of Russian security-software vendor Kaspersky Lab, proposed a toast to the ranking guest, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, whose country had suffered a cyberattack five years earlier. The assault followed Estonia’s decision to remove a Soviet-era monument from its capital, and U.S. officials suspected Russia was behind it.

“Toomas,” Mr. Kaspersky said. “I am so sorry that we attacked you.”

The comment stopped all conversation until Mr. Ilves broke the silence. “Thank you,” he said, raising his glass. “This is the first time anyone from Russia has ever admitted attacking my country.”

​No one suggested Kaspersky was involved in the Estonian hack, but Mr. Kaspersky’s toast played into a suspicion held by many in the U.S. intelligence community that his company might be wittingly or unwittingly in league with the Russian government—a suspicion that has only intensified since.

The process of evaluating Kaspersky’s role, and taking action against the company, is complicated by the realities of global commerce and the nature of how modern online software works. A top Department of Homeland Security official said in November congressional testimony the U.S. lacks “conclusive evidence” Kaspersky facilitated national-security breaches.

While the U.S. government hasn’t offered conclusive evidence, Wall Street Journal interviews with current and former U.S. government officials reveal what is driving their suspicions.

Some of these officials said they suspect Kaspersky’s antivirus software—the company says it is installed on 400 million computers world-wide—has been used to spy on the U.S. and blunt American espionage. Kaspersky’s suspected involvement in U.S. security breaches raises concerns about the relationship between the company and Russian intelligence, these officials said.

Employees at Kaspersky Lab in Moscow, October 2017. Photo: Kirill Kallinikov/Sputnik/Associated Press

DHS, convinced Kaspersky is a threat, has banned its software from government computers. The company sued the U.S. government on Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., saying the ban was arbitrary and capricious, and demanding the prohibition be overturned. DHS referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Kaspersky, in a statement, said: “Unverified opinions of anonymous officials about Kaspersky Lab continue to be shared, and should be taken as nothing more than unsubstantiated allegations against a company whose mission has always been to protect against malware regardless of its source, and which has repeatedly extended an offering to the U.S. government to help alleviate any substantiated concerns. We have never helped and will never help any government with its cyberespionage efforts.”

The company in a court filing said any Russian government engagement in cyberespionage isn’t evidence that a Russia-headquartered company such as Kaspersky is facilitating government-sponsored cyberintrusions, adding: “In fact, more than 85 percent of Kaspersky Lab’s revenue comes from outside of Russia—a powerful economic incentive to avoid any action that would endanger the trusted relationships and integrity that serve as the foundation of its business by conducting inappropriate or unethical activities with any organization or government.”

The Russian Embassy in Washington, D.C., didn’t respond to requests for comment. In October, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov didn’t address whether the Russian government stole NSA materials using Kaspersky software but criticized the U.S. software ban as “undermining the competitive positions of Russian companies on the world arena.”

Servers in Russia

Mr. Kaspersky enrolled at the KGB-sponsored Institute of Cryptography, Telecommunications, and Computer Science, finished in 1987 and was commissioned in Soviet military intelligence, he has told reporters. He has acknowledged his company has done work for the KGB’s successor, the FSB.

Kaspersky, closely held, says it has unaudited 2016 revenues of $644 million. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said they doubt Kaspersky could have risen to such heights outside of Russia without cooperating with Russian authorities’ aims, a conjecture the company denies.

Kaspersky’s main product is similar to other antivirus software, which scans computers to identify malicious code or infected files. Such software typically requires total access so it can remotely scan documents or emails and send a record of any suspicious and previously unidentified code back to the software company.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal at the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO of cyber security firm Kaspersky Labs, said European governments should expect highly sophisticated cyber attacks during their elections. (Originally published Jan 1, 2017.) Photo: Bloomberg News.

In Kaspersky’s case, some servers are in Russia. When the DHS banned Kaspersky products, it cited “requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to compel assistance from Kaspersky or intercept communications transiting Russian networks.” Kaspersky countered that those laws and tools don’t apply to its products because the firm doesn’t provide communications services.

Concerns about the potential threat posed by Kaspersky software have circulated in U.S. intelligence circles for years. U.S. intelligence issued more than two dozen reports referring to the company or its connections, according to a U.S. defense official, with the Pentagon first mentioning the firm as a potential “threat actor” in 2004.

A Defense Intelligence Agency supply-chain report flagged Kaspersky in 2013, referring to its efforts to sell American firms a protection product for large-scale U.S. industrial companies, the defense official said. A former U.S. official said Kaspersky’s efforts to make inroads in the U.S. industrial and infrastructure market made people uncomfortable.

At a February 2015 conference, Kaspersky exposed what it described as a cyber-snooping network it dubbed the “Equation Group.” In fact, it was an elite classified espionage group within the U.S. National Security Agency, said some of the former U.S. officials. Kaspersky linked it to a virus called Stuxnet that the Journal and other publications have since reported was designed by the U.S. and Israel to destroy Iranian nuclear centrifuges. Kaspersky also described other techniques and tactics the U.S. uses to break into foreign computer networks.

Once such techniques are public, they are effectively useless for spying. When NSA officials got word of Kaspersky’s plans to expose its tactics, they pulled the agency’s spying tools from around the world as a preventive measure and reworked how its hackers were functioning, said some of the former U.S. officials. The NSA didn’t respond to requests for comment.

U.S.-Russian relations at the time were deteriorating. President Vladimir Putin had granted NSA leaker Edward Snowden asylum and annexed a swath of Ukraine. Some U.S. officials were convinced Kaspersky was promoting Russian interests and had shared with the Kremlin what it knew about the Equation Group.

“To think that information wasn’t shared with Russian intelligence, or they weren’t supporting Russian intelligence,” said one former U.S. official about Kaspersky, “you’d have to be very nearsighted to not at least think there was something there.”

Mr. Kaspersky at Kaspersky Lab headquarters in Moscow, July 2017. Photo: Pavel Golovkin/Associated Press

Not all U.S. officials believed the worst about Kaspersky, with many citing the high quality of the firm’s cyberthreat research. “There was this innocent until proven guilty attitude,” said another former U.S. official who worked on Russia and national-security matters.

Israeli intelligence shared with U.S. counterparts in 2015 that it had penetrated the networks of Kaspersky, the Journal reported previously. The Israelis discovered Kaspersky software was being used to scan computers not only for viruses but also for classified government information that would be of interest to Russia, said former U.S. officials familiar with the Israeli discovery.

As the NSA investigated the Israeli tip, it homed in on a worker in the agency’s elite hacking unit, then called Tailored Access Operations. The worker had improperly removed classified information about NSA spying operations and installed it on his home computer, said former U.S. officials familiar with the episode. The contractor’s computer ran Kaspersky’s antivirus software, which acted as a digital scout and identified the classified material, these people said.

Assessing damage

U.S. investigators immediately sought to assess the damage, including whether Kaspersky’s products were installed on other sensitive computers, including personal machines used by government employees and their families. That could include those used by family members of then President Barack Obama, said one of the former officials familiar with the episode.

Officials feared Russian intelligence could have not only turned personal computers into tracking devices, but also used them as staging points to access other machines inside the White House, the official said. Still, the incident didn’t trigger a broader alarm across the U.S. government about whether any federal agency computers were using Kaspersky.

In response to the Journal’s story on the incident earlier this year, Kaspersky conducted an internal investigation, releasing a report in November. The only incident Kaspersky said it found that matched the story’s description occurred in late 2014. By then, it said, it had been investigating Equation Group for six months when its antivirus software detected previously unidentified variants of the malware on a U.S.-based computer and sent a zip file containing the suspicious code to the Moscow-based virus lab for analysis.

Kaspersky Lab headquarters in Moscow.Photo: Sergei Karpukhin/REUTERS

The analysis discovered hacking tools now known to have belonged to the NSA, as well as four documents bearing what appeared to be classification markings, Kaspersky said, without mentioning the NSA or U.S. government by name. Mr. Kaspersky ordered the files deleted from the company’s systems within days and the information wasn’t shared with third parties, the company said.

Kaspersky said it did keep certain malware files from that collection. It said it also detected commercially available malware on the U.S. computer, which could have been used to remove files.

In the summer of 2016, a mysterious online group calling itself the Shadow Brokers posted stolen NSA cyberspying tools. The Shadow Brokers claimed in its postings that some of the tools came from Equation Group.

Again, U.S. officials rushed to determine how the tools were stolen. Among the posted computer code were technical manuals the NSA uses as part of its spying operations. These are akin to guidebooks, showing the agency’s hackers how to penetrate various systems and walking them through the procedures for different missions.

One lead pointed back to Kaspersky products, said current and former U.S. officials. Investigators now believe that those manuals may have been obtained using Kaspersky to scan computers on which they were stored, according to one of the officials.

Kaspersky said it has no information on the content of the classified documents it received in 2014 because they were deleted. It isn’t clear if the manuals the Shadow Brokers posted are the same documents.

Around the time the Shadow Brokers were spilling NSA secrets, emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee were showing up on WikiLeaks in what intelligence officials have said publicly they concluded was a Russian-led hacking operation to discredit the campaign of Hillary Clinton. Officials from the White House, the Pentagon, the State Department and the intelligence community met in late 2016 to debate responses to the alleged Russian aggression, said some former U.S. officials.

At the State Department, among options considered was taking retaliatory action against Kaspersky, said former officials involved in the deliberations. Daniel Fried, then chief sanctions coordinator at the State Department, told the Journal he recommended to colleagues they look for elements of Russia’s cyberpower the U.S. could target. He told colleagues Kaspersky at least needed to be considered as a potential player in Russia’s moves against the West.

“I asked rhetorically, do you want to testify before some committee about when did you know about this and why didn’t you do anything?” said Mr. Fried, now a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a think tank focusing on international affairs.

The State Department referred inquiries to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.

Some U.S. officials, including top White House security officials at the time, were concerned any action against Kaspersky could hurt U.S. companies by provoking a Russian response against them. U.S. officials also worried that, to justify harsh penalties, they would have to divulge what they knew about Kaspersky and its possible links to Russian intelligence, said several former officials.

Ultimately, the Obama White House didn’t seriously consider sanctioning Kaspersky, some former U.S. officials said.

Last year, Homeland Security created and led an interagency task force that collected information about the scope of the risk the Kaspersky software posed and began coordinating efforts across the government to minimize the risks.

In the months after President Donald Trump took office, concern about Kaspersky grew. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.) put forward an amendment in the annual military-spending bill that would prohibit Kaspersky’s use on government computers.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen at a hearing in June. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Images

During hearings on the matter on Capitol Hill, “I thought the most damning example” came from intelligence-community representatives, she said in an interview. “When each of them got asked would you put Kaspersky on your own personal computer and the answer was no, that’s a pretty strong message that maybe we should be taking a look at this.”

In September, the DHS banned Kaspersky products from government computers, instructing agencies to remove any Kaspersky software and report back on where it was found. The public statement accompanying the ban reads like a declassified version of the intelligence community’s suspicion regarding Kaspersky:

“The risk that the Russian government, whether acting on its own or in collaboration with Kaspersky, could capitalize on access provided by Kaspersky products to compromise federal information and information systems directly implicates U.S. national security.”

Kaspersky says the DHS ban has had a “severe adverse effect” on its commercial operations in the U.S., with retailers removing its products from shelves and an unprecedented number of product returns.

—Aruna Viswanatha contributed to this article.

Write to Gordon Lubold at

Pussy Riot activist sentenced to community work after FSB protest

December 21, 2017


© AFP | Maria Alyokhina at her Moscow court hearing Thursday, where she was sentenced to 40 hours of community service for her protest at the FSB headquarters

MOSCOW (AFP) – A Russian court on Thursday sentenced a member of the Pussy Riot punk band and activist group to 40 hours of community work after she unfurled a protest sign near the Moscow headquarters of the FSB security services.

Maria Alyokhina, 29, staged her protest Wednesday on the steps in front of the FSB headquarters, holding a poster saying “Happy Birthday, executioners.”

Her protest came as Russia marked 100 years since the establishment of the Cheka, the Soviet Union’s first secret police service, created to stamp out opposition to the Bolshevik Revolution.

A judge with Moscow’s Meshchansky district court sentenced Alyokhina, who has a child, to 40 hours of community work, an AFP journalist said.

Alyokhina and other Pussy Riot members were arrested in 2012 on charges of hooliganism after a “punk prayer” performance targeting President Vladimir Putin in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

She and fellow bandmate Nadezhda Tolokonnikova were imprisoned for nearly two years over the protest, which catapulted the group to international fame.

Since then Pussy Riot ceased to exist in its original format as both members became more involved in advocating for prisoners’ rights and participating in other arts projects.

The role of the Cheka, known by its acronym VChK, and its successor agencies including the KGB — the predecessor of the FSB — was widely denounced during the 1990s.

A statue of the chief of the Soviet Union’s first secret police, Felix Dzerzhinsky, near the FSB headquarters was symbolically toppled in 1991.

But since President Vladimir Putin took power in 2000, there has been a growing chorus of Russians who take a positive view of the Soviet past, including the role of the secret police.


Russia’s Kaspersky to Allow Outside Review of Its Cybersecurity Software

October 23, 2017

Company hopes sharing source code will build trust after allegations its software helped Russia spy on Americans

Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based cybersecurity firm whose software U.S. officials suspect helped the Russian government spy on Americans, promised to make its source code available for an independent review.

The company said Monday the review is part of a “global transparency initiative” that it hopes will improve the trustworthiness of its products. It said it would hand over the source code for its software in the first quarter of next year but didn’t specify who would undertake the review or how widely the code would be…

Image result for Eugene Kaspersky, photos

Eugene Kaspersky


Kaspersky fights spying claims with code review plan

October 23, 2017 — 0745

Apple Pay now in 20 markets, nabs 90% of all mobile contactless transactions where active

Russian cybersecurity software maker Kaspersky Labs has announced what it’s dubbing a “comprehensive transparency initiative” as the company seeks to beat back suspicion that its antivirus software has been hacked or penetrated by the Russian government and used as a route for scooping up US intelligence.

In a post on its website today the Moscow-based company has published a four point plan to try to win back customer trust, saying it will be submitting its source code for independent review, starting in Q1 2018. It hasn’t yet specified who will be conducting the review but says it will be “undertaken with an internationally recognized authority”.

It has also announced an independent review of its internal processes — aimed at verifying the “integrity of our solutions and processes”. And says it will also be establishing three “transparency centers” outside its home turf in the next three years — to enable “clients, government bodies and concerned organizations to review source code, update code and threat detection rules”.

It says the first center will be up and running in 2018, and all three will be live by 2020. The locations are listed generally as: Asia, Europe and the U.S.

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Finally it’s also increasing its bug bounty rewards — saying it will pay up to $100K per discovered vulnerability in its main Kaspersky Lab products.

That’s a substantial ramping up of its current program which — as of April this year — could pay out up to $5,000 per discovered remote code execution bugs. (And, prior to that, up to $2,000 only.)

Kaspersky’s moves follow a ban announced by the US Department of Homeland Security on its software last month, citing concerns about ties between “certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies, and requirements under Russian law that allow Russian intelligence agencies to request or compel assistance from Kaspersky and to intercept communications transiting Russian networks”.

The US Senate swiftly followed suit, voting to oust Kaspersky software from federal use. While three months earlier the General Services Administration also removed Kaspersky Lab from a list of approved federal vendors.

The extensive system-wide permissions of antivirus software could certainly make it an attractive target for government agents seeking to spy on adversaries and scoop up data, given the trust it demands of its users.

The WSJ has previously reported that Russian hackers working for the government were able to obtain classified documents from an NSA employee who had stored them on a personal computer that ran Kaspersky software.

Earlier this month CEO Eugene Kaspersky blogged at length — rebutting what he dubbed “false allegations in U.S. media”, and writing: “Our mission is to protect our users and their data. Surveillance, snooping, spying, eavesdropping… all that is done by espionage agencies (which we occasionally catch out and tell the world about), not us.”

We’re proud to keep on protecting people against all cyberthreats – no matter of false allegations in U.S. media 

Photo published for What’s going on?

What’s going on?

I doubt you’ll have missed how over the last couple months our company has suffered an unrelenting negative-news campaign in the U.S. press.

But when your business relies so firmly on user trust — and is headquartered close to the Kremlin, to boot — words may evidently not be enough. Hence Kaspersky now announcing a raft of “transparency” actions.

Whether those actions will be enough to restore the confidence of US government agencies in Russian-built software is another matter though.

Kaspersky hasn’t yet named who its external reviewers will be, either. But reached for comment, a company spokeswoman told us: “We will announce selected partners shortly. Kaspersky Lab remains focused on finding independent experts with strong credentials in software security and assurance testing for cybersecurity products. Some recommended competencies include, but are not limited to, technical audits, code base reviews, vulnerability assessments, architectural risk analysis, secure development lifecycle process reviews, etc. Taking a multi-stakeholder approach, we welcome input and recommendations from interested parties at

She also sent the following general company statement:

Kaspersky Lab was not involved in and does not possess any knowledge of the situation in question, and the company reiterates its willingness to work alongside U.S. authorities to address any concerns they may have about its products as well as its systems.

As there has not been any evidence presented, Kaspersky Lab cannot investigate these unsubstantiated claims, and if there is any indication that the company’s systems may have been exploited, we respectfully request relevant parties responsibly provide the company with verifiable information. It’s disappointing that these unverified claims continue to perpetuate the narrative of a company which, in its 20 year history, has never helped any government in the world with its cyberespionage efforts.

In addition, with regards to unverified assertions that this situation relates to Duqu2, a sophisticated cyber-attack of which Kaspersky Lab was not the only target, we are confident that we have identified and removed all of the infections that happened during that incident. Furthermore, Kaspersky Lab publicly reported the attack, and the company offered its assistance to affected or interested organisations to help mitigate this threat.

Contrary to erroneous reports, Kaspersky Lab technologies are designed and used for the sole purpose of detecting all kinds of threats, including nation-state sponsored malware, regardless of the origin or purpose. The company tracks more than 100 advanced persistent threat actors and operations, and for 20 years, Kaspersky Lab has been focused on protecting people and organisations from these cyberthreats — its headquarters’ location doesn’t change that mission.

“We want to show how we’re completely open and transparent. We’ve nothing to hide,” added Kaspersky in another statement.

Interestingly enough, the move is pushing in the opposite direction of US-based cybersecurity firm Symantec — which earlier this month announced it would no longer be allowing governments to review the source code of its software because of fears the agreements would compromise the security of its products.


US agencies banned from using Russia’s Kaspersky software

September 14, 2017

Federal agencies in the US have 90 days to wipe Kaspersky software from their computers. Officials are concerned about the Russian company’s ties to the Kremlin and possible threats to national security.

Headquarters of Internet security giant Kaspersky in Moscow (Getty Images/AFP/K. Kudryavtsev)

The administration of US President Donald Trump has ordered government agencies to remove products made by Russian company Kaspersky Labs from their computers.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said Wednesday it was concerned that the cybersecurity firm was susceptible to pressure from Moscow and thus a potential threat to national security.

Read more: Facebook, Russia and the US elections – what you need to know

DHS said in a statement that it was “concerned about the ties between certain Kaspersky officials and Russian intelligence and other government agencies,” as well as Russian laws that might compel Kaspersky to hand over information to the government.

But the makers of the popular anti-virus software have said “no credible evidence has been presented publicly by anyone or any organization as the accusations are based on false allegations and inaccurate assumptions.”

US tech retailer Best Buy confirmed earlier Wednesday that it would no longer sell Kaspersky products, but has declined to give further details on the decision.

Ties between Kaspersky, Kremlin ‘alarming’

Civilian government agencies have 90 days to completely remove Kaspersky software from their computers. The products have already been banned in the Pentagon.

US congressional leaders have applauded the move. Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen said the “strong ties between Kaspersky Lab and the Kremlin are alarming and well-documented,” and asked the DHS if the company’s products were used for any critical infrastructure, such as for voting systems, banks and energy supply.

Although Kaspersky Labs was founded by a KGB-trained entrepreneur, Eugene Kaspersky, and has done work for Russian intelligence, the company has repeatedly denied carrying out espionage on behalf of President Vladimir Putin and his government.

es/cmk (AP, Reuters)

Raoul Wallenberg, “The Angel of Budapest” — Again in The News During Search for Truth

September 13, 2017


© Wikimedia | A photograph from Raoul Wallenberg’s passport, June 1944.

Text by Louise NORDSTROM Stéphanie TROUILLARD

Latest update : 2017-09-13

More than 72 years after the disappearance of a young Swedish diplomat who saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, his family is going to court to challenge Russia’s claims of how World War II hero Raoul Wallenberg ended his days.

The first hearing in the case is set to take place at Moscow’s Meshchansky court on September 18 and marks a major milestone in relatives and historians’ decades-long quest to unlock the mystery surrounding Wallenberg’s final days.

Between July and December 1944, Wallenberg risked his life on an almost daily basis by using his diplomatic status as Sweden’s special envoy to Budapest to issue travel documents and set up safe houses to protect the city’s persecuted Jews. Survivors and people in the young Swede’s immediate entourage have often hailed Wallenberg for his bravery, recounting, for example, how he once climbed onto the roof of an Auschwitz-bound train, handing out Swedish travel passes to the desperate hands reaching out from the windows and doors of the train – all the while dodging German bullets.

Wallenberg is also credited with dissuading a German officer from ordering a massacre in the Hungarian capital’s ghetto, which housed an estimated 70,000 people at the time.


Wallenberg, who was born into one of Sweden’s wealthiest and most influential families and had nothing to gain from his courageous acts, quickly became known as “the angel of Budapest”.

But as the war was winding down in January 1945, the 32-year-old diplomat was suddenly arrested by the Soviet Red Army along with his driver on the outskirts of the Hungarian capital and was never seen in public again.

Closed archives, censored documents

The reasons for Wallenberg’s detention have never been fully explained. Russian versions of his presumed death have been widely disputed due to the lack of hard evidence.

“We have serious doubts about the official Russian version concerning Raoul’s death,” Wallenberg’s niece Marie Dupuy told FRANCE 24 in an email, explaining why the family is suing the Russian intelligence agency, the FSB, in a bid to force it to open up its archives. The archives, which house files dating from the FSB’s Soviet-era predecessor, the KGB, are believed to contain key documents related to the Wallenberg case.

“It’s become more and more obvious that there are important documents in the Russian archives,” Dupuy said.


For decades, researchers and Wallenberg family members have tried to get access to the files but documents have either been heavily censored before being handed over or not been made available at all. Although the Russian archives were opened for a brief period in the beginning of the 1990s, they were re-classified following the discovery of a ground-breaking document that showed Wallenberg had been transferred from one prison to another – confirming researchers’ convictions that there are plenty more Wallenberg files in those archives.

Prisoner No. 7

According to an official Soviet statement in 1957, Wallenberg died of a heart attack – aged just 34 – in Moscow’s Lubyanka prison on July 17, 1947. But in more recent years, former KGB officials have come forward and stated that Wallenberg was actually executed on that day. Unverified eyewitness accounts and Russian prison documents referring to a certain “Prisoner No. 7”, however, strongly indicate that this prisoner was in fact Wallenberg – and that the prisoner was still alive a full six days after the Russians claim the Swede had died. Perhaps even longer.

“For one, the chance that a generally very healthy, 34-year-old man would succumb to a sudden heart attack is exceedingly low. Secondly, Russian officials have essentially acknowledged that the alleged cause of Wallenberg’s death was almost certainly an invented version of events,” Wallenberg expert Susanne Berger, who has researched the case since the 1990s, told FRANCE 24.

“Contrary to official claims, progress in the case is possible – relevant documentation does exist,” she said. Berger is a member of The Raoul Wallenberg Research Initiative (RWI-70), the working group that filed the litigation along with Wallenberg’s family earlier this year.

“Both foreign and Russian researchers continue to work in Russia under very difficult circumstances,” Berger said.

A FRANCE 24 request for comment from the Russian authorities on the accusations they face in court went unanswered.

Motives remain to hide truth

Despite more than 70 years having passed since Wallenberg’s disappearance, Berger said there are several reasons for why Moscow might still feel compelled to keep the truth about Wallenberg’s fate under wraps.

“The Kremlin apparently feels that the revelation of the truth about historically sensitive cases like that of Raoul Wallenberg […] runs counter to its current policy of promoting only ‘useful’ history, meaning the presentation of historical events in ways that serve to reinforce President [Vladimir] Putin’s idea of a strong, powerful Russia,” she said.

“The Putin government has generally been very reluctant to reveal any information about crimes committed by the former Soviet security service [KGB], whose successor organisations and institutions remain very influential in Russian society today,” she said.

Wallenberg’s niece said that neither she, nor her family, will give up in the fight for the truth.

“I’m doing this for my grandparents and for my father, who dedicated more than 70 years to this fight, without financial aid and without the minimum help from officials. Raoul has become a symbol known the world over [for his bravery], but few things have ever been done for him.”

“I’m certain that the truth will come to light one day.”

Sputnik Gloats: So “Russian Hackers” Were CIA All Along?

March 8, 2017
15:27 08.03.2017(updated 17:30 08.03.2017) Get short URL
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‘Vault 7’: WikiLeaks Exposes CIA’s Global Covert Hacking Program in Largest Ever Leak (11)
WikiLeaks has published part one of Vault 7 – a massive trove of documents on the CIA. As expected, the leaks’ contents, including new details on the intelligence agency’s shocking capabilities, and important revelations about the so-called ‘Russian hack’, have riled up social media. Sputnik has collected some of the most interesting reactions.

The first part of the leak, dubbed by WikiLeaks as “the largest ever publication of confidential documents on the agency,” comprises over 8,700 documents and files, and reveals the scale and scope of the CIA’s global hacking and tracking program.

The leak reveals that the agency has developed the means to penetrate most prominent anti-virus programs, that it has apps to turn smart televisions into recording devices, and that it has been ‘looking into’ ways to hijack computer systems in modern cars to carry out untraceable assassinations.Perhaps more than anything, social media users were freaked out by the agency’s seemingly Orwellian technical capabilities. Edward Snowden, former National Security Agency contractor turned whistleblower, explained just how big a deal it was that the CIA was using consumer electronics to target people.

Turning to Vault 7’s political implications, Twitter users pointed out that the revelations made in the leaks about the CIA’s capabilities in Russia make the Obama administration’s evidence-free ‘Russian election hack’ claims seem even more hypocritical.

Others still pointed to a very important detail about the CIA’s capabilities and efforts to misdirect attribution via phony digital fingerprints, accusing others (hint: Russia) of doing what they themselves may have done. Popular comments on this point were chock-full of sarcasm and memes.

Other users also noted that it was impressive, and scary, just how far the CIA had moved ahead of their Cold War-era opponents, the East German Stasi and the Soviet KGB. Those agencies were known for being fearsome and effective, but their technical capabilities were extremely primitive, and the butt of numerous jokes. The CIA, users said, is shaping up to look more and more like these agencies all the time, but with technology that’s far more advanced.

Bizarrely, in spite of these revelations, some Twitter users still rushed to defend the dominant Democratic Party and US mainstream media narrative, claiming that the WikiLeaks CIA leak was “another distraction from Trump’s ties with Russia” and that the revelations were all a ruse by “KGB Putin,” who “wants to destroy our CIA.”

Others still accused President Trump, who has yet to comment on the leaks, of being a “russian asset” (sic) for staying silent.

What do Trump’s opponents expect him to say? That the WikiLeaks CIA leak again confirms the ridiculousness of the hysterical ‘Siberian candidate’ campaign against him? Or that the surveillance behemoth built up under his predecessor has become more powerful than anyone could have possibly imagined?

As WikiLeaks continues its work, and to reveal more and more classified information, it will be sure to result in more reaction, and debate, about the inner workings of powerful and secretive government institutions, shattering many myths and illusions people may have about their governments and politicians.


Trump’s foreign policy looks a lot like Putin’s — Beware Your First Impressions

November 11, 2016


By Andrew Osborn | MOSCOW

The Kremlin said on Thursday U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s foreign policy approach was “phenomenally close” to that of President Vladimir Putin, giving Russia hope that tattered U.S.-Russia relations could gradually be improved.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, speaking in New York, said he saw incredible similarities between the two men’s foreign policy ideas, and this meant there was a solid basis to start a meaningful dialogue between Moscow and Washington.

Peskov, in the United States for a chess tournament, said he was struck by how similar parts of Trump’s victory speech were to a speech Putin gave in southern Russia last month.

Both men said they would put their own country’s national interests first, but that they would be ready to develop ties with other nations, depending on how ready other countries were to deepen relations themselves.

“They (Putin and Trump) set out the same main foreign policy principles and that is incredible,” Peskov said in comments broadcast by Russian state TV’s Channel One on Thursday evening.

“It is phenomenal how close they are to one another when it comes to their conceptual approach to foreign policy. And that is probably a good basis for our moderate optimism that they will at least be able to start a dialogue to start to clear out the Augean stables in our bilateral relations.”

With Moscow and Washington now at odds over Syria, Ukraine and NATO, Peskov cautioned that it would take a long time before relations could return to a high level, however, because of how far they had been allowed to deteriorate.

“An atmosphere of mutual trust takes years to achieve,” he said. “It’s not possible to just declare that there is an atmosphere of mutual trust, especially after such serious damage was done in the last few years to our relations.”

Peskov told the TASS news agency separately that Putin was ready to be flexible when it came to mending ties which he wanted to improve, but that there was a limit to his flexibility and that he would need to see some U.S. reciprocity.

Peskov spoke after one of Russia’s most senior diplomats told the Interfax news agency earlier on Thursday that the Russian government had been in touch with members of Trump’s political team during the U.S. election campaign and knew most of his entourage.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)


Trump Thinks He Can Make Agreemnts With Rusia

By Rob Robberson

In 2001, President George Bush issued a truly astounding appraisal of Vladimir Putin, the former KGB agent who has run Russia since replacing Boris Yeltsin in 1999. “I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country.” Bush got it half right. Putin was absolutely committed to Russia and Russia’s interests. But trustworthy? I think Bush’s own CIA and FBI specialists would have told him to read his intelligence briefs more closely before opening his mouth.

Today’s New York Times has a fascinating story about an elaborate Russian spy ring whose job was to pose as ordinary U.S. residents while gathering intelligence on nuclear weapons, U.S. policy toward Iran, CIA activities and congressional politics among other things. But don’t stop reading there. Comrade J, a 2007 book by former Washington Post reporter Pete Early, tells the fascinating story of Sergei Tretyakov, a former KGB officer who became a top officer in the KGB’s successor agency, the SVR, after the Soviet Union collapsed. I recently read the book and couldn’t believe my eyes. This is a detailed account of activities that Russian intelligence agents conducted in the United States for years after our leaders — mainly Bush and Bill Clinton — sorely mistook the supposedly democratic Russian leadership as our friend.

Clinton guffawed and slapped Yeltsin on the back during one famous, drunken episode on stage. Bush praised Yeltsin as a straight shooter. While we diverted our attention and intelligence resources to the war on terrorism after 9/11, Russian agents enjoyed a field day in this country. All the while, the Russians were directing serious covert operations in the United States designed to undermine our foreign policy, steal our secrets, rob us blind and tuck billions of dollars in assets away in private bank accounts. Tretyakov says he defected after realizing that his work no longer served the interests of the Russian state but rather was helping corrupt leaders profit at the expense of the people.

Why should we be concerned? Take a look at who owns 10 percent of Facebook (Digital Sky Technologies), and what his connections are to Putin, Alisher Usmanov and the activities described above. Then take a look at all of the junk email caught by your spam filter. You can thank Digital Sky Technologies for that.

We think this is just a bunch of free-enterprise-loving Russian democrats enjoying the good life and making some money by spamming and scamming their way into American computers. We should be very concerned. When America faces its next big cybersecurity crisis, we will need to ask ourselves this important question: Why did we invite our enemy into our living room? Why did we hand over access to our nation’s computer networks to a group of thugs who do not even remotely share our interests? Try looking again into Putin’s eyes, President Obama, and ask whether you see what Bush and Clinton saw. Oh, wait, I guess you already did. And the answer is on the front page of today’s New York Times.

UK Spy Chief Sees Growing Threat From Russian Cyber-Attacks, Espionage

November 1, 2016

NOV. 1, 2016, 6:51 A.M. EDT

LONDON — Russia is pushing its foreign policy in increasingly aggressive ways including cyber-attacks and espionage, posing a growing threat to Britain and the rest of Europe, the head of Britain’s internal intelligence agency MI5 has said.

Andrew Parker said Russia had been a covert threat for decades, but what differed now from the Cold War era was that there were more and more methods available for it to pursue its anti-Western agenda.

Andrew Parker, Head of Britain’s MI5

“Russia increasingly seems to define itself by opposition to the West and seems to act accordingly,” he told the Guardian newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.

“It is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways, involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today.”

Parker’s interview coincided with a British government announcement on plans to invest an extra 1.9 billion pounds ($2.3 billion) in cyber security defences.

Already strained by the case of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent murdered in London in 2006, relations between Britain and Russia have further deteriorated over Moscow’s actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Parker said the targets of Russia’s covert activities in Britain included military secrets, industrial projects, economic information and government and foreign policy.

On Islamic extremism, Parker said Britain’s security services had foiled 12 attack plots in the past three years, but that the threat would endure for at least a generation.

“That sort of tempo of terrorist plots and attempts is concerning and it’s enduring. Attacks in this country are higher than I have experienced in the rest of my career, and I’ve been working at MI5 for 33 years,” he said.

“The reality is that because of the investment in services like mine, the UK has got good defences. My expectation is that we will find and stop most attempts at terrorism in this country.”

The threat level is officially set at “severe”, meaning an attack is considered highly likely.

Parker broke down the threat into three components: homegrown extremists numbering about 3,000, Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq trying to incite plots against Britain, and online propaganda by IS and other extremist groups.

He added: “This is something we have to understand: it’s here to stay. It is an enduring threat and it’s at least a generational challenge for us to deal with.”

(Reporting by Estelle Shirbon; editing by Stephen Addison)


 (Includes cyberspying, cybertheft)

China and Russia held joint military exercises in the pacific Ocean in 2014 — they executed similar exercises in the South China Sea during September 2016.

While Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton began what was called the “U.S. pivot to Asia.” In this photo, Hillary Clinton talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. on September 5, 2012. Today Hillary Clinton is running to become the next President of the United States and China’s former Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi has been promoted to the number three leadership within the Chinese Communist Party. China seems to be in control of most of the South China Sea and is pressuring all U.S. allies from Japan to Australia to Singapore to ally themselves with China or face consequences. In 2012, Hillary Clinton was a big advocate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). After Donald trump said the TPP was not a good deal for American workers, Hillary Clinton became against the TPP.

Those were fun times, weren’t they?  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing Mrs. Clinton’s  intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. Only the Clinton State Department Used the word for “overcharge” instead of the word for ‘reset.” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left her post as U.S. Secretary of State with a Russia in military resurgence. The button meant “Reset to the Soviet Union and the Cold War” to Putin’s Moscow government, we suppose. (AP Photo)

A general view shows destruction in Aleppo’s rebel-held Bustan al-Basha neighbourhood on October 6, 2016. Credit George Ourfalian, AFP

 (From Sunday, June 26, 2016)


The number of migrants and refugees during the Obama Administration has exceeded the total number from World War II.

Because the threat of Radical Islamic Terrorism was not addressed more forcefully from the start with a concerted campaign to eliminate them,  the number of killed, wounded and displaced has continued to rise. The citizens of Syria and other places gave up waiting for Barack Obama to end the war and, at great peril to their own lives, and the lives of their family members, they became refugees and migrants.  How much longer must the world stay in this state of upheaval?

President Obama now has the distinction of being the longest serving American president during war in the history of the United States. That’s his legacy.



U.S. Navy sailors taken prisoner by Iran, January 12, 2016


The Epic Honey Trap: A Classic Case Shows Just How Far Moscow Will Go To Get What It Wants — It really did resemble something out of Dangerous Liaisons by way of The Lower Depths

August 1, 2016

By Michael Weiss

The French ambassador looked like an easy target, but 100 operatives were called on to get him laid, and get him recruited.

“Eh bien, Dejean, on couche.”

With that contemptuous locution, which one might translate very roughly as, “Well, De Jean, one gets laid,” with perhaps the added thought that having made one’s bed, one must lie in it, Charles De Gaulle dismissed his old friend Maurice Dejean from diplomatic service to the Fifth Republic.

It was 1964, six years after the KGB had staged one of its long-running and most elaborate honey traps in Moscow against a Western diplomat. The operation involved over 100 officers and agents of the KGB including, incognito, the head of the Second Chief Directorate, the branch responsible for domestic surveillance and the monitoring or recruitment of foreigners inside the Soviet Union.

Celebrated Russian writers, actresses, painters, and intellectuals, and not a few prostitutes were conscripted for this mission of interlocking plots and subplots, featuring Dejean’s wife and the wives of others. Even Premier Nikita Khrushchev played a role in snaring the high-value mark he himself ordered snared. It was a mission of entrapment that repeatedly risked coming undone and likely would have but for the cosmic surety of French womanizing.

Dejean had served faithfully with De Gaulle in the resistance during World War II, first in Morocco and then London. Although the two had quarreled in the Free French administration after the Allied liberation of Paris, Dejean went on to become political director at the Quai d’Orsay, the French foreign ministry.

From there, his career was largely a series of botched attempts to extricate postwar France from various folds in the Iron Curtain, a somewhat quixotic search for a “third way” between the democratic West and the totalitarian East.

Dejean served as ambassador to Prague and worked assiduously to restore Franco-Czech relations until the 1948 communist coup, which Dejean blamed (rightly) on the Soviets. He headed the French mission in Tokyo in 1950; then he was dispatched to Saigon where he watched the siege of Dien Ben Phu and its fall to communist insurgents in 1954: prelude to an engulfing conflict that would eventually lure the United States into its first disastrous war of choice.

Perhaps it was fitting, then, that Dejean’s next posting would also be his last, in Moscow, a year later. He was 56, eager to establish cultural ties and, as the haughty De Gaulle put it, not above sleeping around.

In the age of email hacking and cyber insecurity, it is easy to forget the more cunning, intimate, and human side of tradecraft, which is why over the last several months I’ve been taking slow, deep sips from KGB: The Secret Work of Soviet Secret Agents, a book published in 1974, at a time when we knew far less than we do now about how the Cold War was being fought in the shadows and street corners and embassies of the world.

The author, John Barron, a Reader’s Digest journalist (and not the “spokesman” Donald Trump used to conjure out of thin air) , spent years accumulating first-hand accounts from Soviet defectors about the nature and style of the special services’ invigilation of the citizenry and of usually unsuspecting foreign visitors to the USSR, or foreign marks abroad.

Barron, who was himself a spook in the 1950s, was so accomplished by the end of his spadework that he frequently testified for the FBI in prominent espionage cases, explaining the patterns of Soviet surveillance and spy-running. The Dejean operation is in many ways the summa of KGB and the subject matter therein.

It all began in 1956, the year of the Hungarian Revolution, at the Moskva Hotel, with KGB Col. Leonid Kunavin instructing one of his subordinates, the dramatist Yuri Krotkov, that Dejean was the target for recruitment, given his closeness to De Gaulle and the likelihood that the latter was on his way to ruling France. “The order comes from the very top,” Kunavin said. “Nikita Sergeyevich [Khrushchev] himself wants him caught.”

The use of Krotkov as the seconded scalp-hunter was as clever as it was customary, given his bona fides in the artistic milieu of Soviet Moscow. Born in Tbilisi, he was the son of a famous Georgian painter who once did a portrait of Lavrenty Beria that Stalin’s last-appointed security chief so admired, he had copies made and hung around the security service’s Lubyanka headquarters—until, of course, Beria was purged by Khrushchev following Stalin’s death.

Even so, paternal accomplishment and connections afforded Krotkov the necessary state protections, as a writer, to advance quickly through the ranks of the nomenklatura. He relied on his friends in the NKVD, as Beria’s spy service was then known, to evict squatters who had taken over his former room in Moscow, prior to the Nazi siege, which had forced him to flee. Krotkov then worked for TASS and Radio Moscow. He became an agent of the KGB in 1946, at the age of 28.

“As a writer, intellectual, and friend of the Boris Pasternak [author of Dr. Zhivago] family, Krotkov was welcomed by foreigners in Moscow. This tall, slender man, with a handsome shock of dark brown hair and an intense, expressive face, could talk suavely in English or Russian about the arts, history, and prominent Soviet personalities. Soon he learned to exploit the hunger of visitors for communication with the Soviet people. All the while, Krotkov was instructed to look for attractive girls whom the KGB could use to tempt foreigners into trouble. He picked them primarily from among actresses he met while writing film scenarios. The KGB offered them various inducements—the promise of better roles, money, clothes, a measure of liberty and gaiety absent from normal Soviet life.”

The girls were called “swallows” and they flew solo or in formation, depending upon the needs of Krotkov and his masters in the special services. Quarters were provided to them for assignations with their foreign marks—these were “swallow’s nests”—which consisted of two adjoining rooms; one for the tryst and one for the KGB’s audio-visual squad to record everything for the inevitable blackmail and Faustian offer.

Upon their arrival in Moscow, in December 1955, Dejean and his wife Marie-Claire had already been put under extensive surveillance. Their apartment at the French embassy was bugged. Their chauffeur was a KGB informant. They didn’t go anywhere or see anyone without the KGB’s knowledge, in accordance with Second Chief Directorate policy.

“We know everything about him there is to know,” Col. Kunavin told Krotkov during their meeting at the Moskva Hotel. A day later, the colonel told Krotkov his role would be to get to know Marie-Claire. “You must gain control of her; make her ours. You must get her in bed.”

Nor were the Dejeans the only mark. The Soviets also wanted to recruit an assistant air attaché at the French embassy, Col. Louis Guibaud, who was also married and whose wife Ginette would also have to play a sexual part in Krotkov’s little cinema vérité production. Moscow’s Frank Sinatra at the time, the actor and singer Misha Orlov, would be the one to seduce Madame Guibaud.

Charles de Gaulle (L), Chief of the French Free Forces, decorates six French officers in London on November 11, 1941 during World War II. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read -/AFP/Getty Images)


Charles de Gaulle (L), Chief of the French Free Forces, decorates six French officers in London on November 11, 1941 during World War II.

“When the time comes, it all will fit together,” Kunavin said. “You’ll see; we have something special in mind. There is one thing in our favor. Dejean really is trying to do his job. He wants to get out among the people—and his wife is trying to help him. He really wants to be friends. Well, we’ll show him how friendly our girls can be.”

Orlov and another KGB operative, Boris Cherkashin, who masqueraded as a Soviet diplomat named Karelin, arranged for a not-so-chance encounter with Madame Dejean at a resort by the Black Sea. She was duly impressed with their company and, perhaps not wanting to squander the opportunity to get to know a national celebrity and fellow foreign service officer, befriended them.

The three kept running into each other again and again at state functions, furnishing the perfect pretext for the eventual introduction of the ambassador’s wife to Krotkov. This happened aboard a police motorboat, repainted and redecorated to resemble a private boat, which, after being stuffed with fine wine and gourmet cuisine, took a picnic cruise along the Khimki Reservoir. Krotkov set to work on Madame Dejean, telling her that a friend of his, an official in the Sports Administration, had lent him the craft that had actually come from the Moscow militia, while Orlov hit on Madame Guibard.

Here the set-piece recounted by Barron really did resemble something out of Dangerous Liaisons by way of The Lower Depths.

Krotkov asked Madame Dejean how she was finding the Soviet Union. Too polite to tell the truth, she answered that she was “delighted” by it as well as the graciousness of her communist hosts. Krotkov then compared Moscow unfavorably to Paris, trying to provoke her into national amour-propre, a challenge she also (diplomatically) declined by refusing to compare the two cities.

Krotkov: “Would you have me believe that you like everything you have seen?”

Madame Dejean: “I am a guest. We did not come here to criticize. We came to help our countries be friends.”

Krotkov: “And I hope you succeed. But we should be honest, and I might as well tell you that there is much in Soviet reality that I detest. As a writer, I would be interested to know if we see the same reality.”

Madame Dejean: “If you insist. One difference between France and the Soviet Union: a conversation over a glass of wine can bring a Frenchman to the verge of revolution, while your people seem willing to tolerate anything. I think it very sad when people lose their capacity to be outraged.”

Krotkov: “I can see that you and I are going to be good friends.”

By the end of the cruise, Madame Dejean had invited the entire retinue to celebrate Bastille Day at the embassy. There was just one wrinkle. Cherkashin had previously been identified by French counterintelligence in Paris as a KGB spy, so he couldn’t attend.

Krotkov and Orlov showed up, however, and finally made the acquaintance of Amb. Dejean, who was also entertaining another Soviet luminary.

“Later in the evening,” Barron writes, “Krotkov watched as Dejean and Khrushchev, the guest of honor, drank champagne and traded jokes, occasionally poking each other in the ribs amid the laughter.”

Khrushchev, who had ordered Dejean’s recruitment, must have found the evening very amusing indeed.

The only Frenchman not susceptible to the KGB’s charms, it seems, was the second target, the assistant air attaché, Col. Guibard, who gave the operatives and plants there to toast French independence a frosty reception. Guibard would require more work, Krotkov and Orlov concluded.

The next cast member to enter the plot was nicknamed “Little Napoleon.” He was Lt. Gen. Oleg Gribanov, at the time the head of the KGB’s Second Chief Directorate. He was infamous—at least internally—for crushing dissent and “counter-revolutionary” activity within the broader USSR. He had won the esteem of his superiors by helping to oversee the destruction of the Hungarian uprising in 1956, the year Dejean came to Moscow. So Little Napoleon was enlisted to try to foment treason against La France.

Gribanov was given a “legend,” or back story, that made him an “important official in the Council of Ministers” named Oleg Gorbunov. He was married to a woman named Vera Andreyeva, who was in fact a KGB major. Her introduction to the Dejeans came by way of two more agents: Sergei Mikhalkov, the co-author of the Soviet national anthem, and his wife Natalia Konchalovskaya, a children’s book writer. Vera Andreyeva and Madame Dejean, who had yet to go to bed with Krotkov, became good friends.

The two couples took dinner together at the Grubanov’s supposed home, a spacious apartment in Moscow, which was really a KGB-run residence. They holidayed at a lavishly appointed log cabin in Kurkino-Mashkino, just outside the capital—actually, the dacha of Ivan Serov, the chairman of the KGB. Meanwhile, Andreyeva was tasked with keeping Madame Dejean preoccupied and out of town as often as possible, the easier to fly swallows across her husband’s line of sight.

The first to catch his interest was a French-speaking, curvy divorcee named Lydia Khovanskaya, who was repurposed as a translator and made a point of brushing her hair up against the ambassador’s face at a ballet put on just for the benefit of allowing her to entice him into an affair. A subsequent dinner at the pricy Praga Restaurant brought Lydia back into his attention; and, just in case he wasn’t interested, two more swallows—actresses—were invited along as insurance.

But Dejean was interested, as it turned out. At a later art exhibit, Lydia asked the ambassador for a ride home. Then she asked him up for coffee and to “see how an ordinary Soviet woman lives.” He came down two hours later, according to his KGB chauffeur.

Her mission accomplished, she was instructed by Kunavin to play hard to get. “Gradually build up the relationship,” he told her. “But don’t appear too available for a while.”

It would be a minor victory to let the cage descend upon Dejean when he was still just an ambassador to Moscow. The goal was to wait until he climbed the ladder from diplomat to cabinet official or national security adviser to De Gaulle, now coming into focus, in 1958, as the likely next prime minister or, indeed, president. Dejean’s recall to Paris now appeared inevitable.

Act II was an unexpected rearrangement of the dramatis personae.

Lydia had succeeded but had been miscast, according to Kunavin, because she only had an ex-husband—one well known in Paris—and this operation, to be fully realized, required an active spouse who could barge in on the ambassador and his swallow.

Lydia fashioned an excuse: She was leaving Moscow to shoot a film on location and wouldn’t return for some time. Her replacement was already known to Dejean; one of the beautiful young ingénues brought to the Praga Restaurant as backup.

Larissa Kronberg-Sobolevskaya was an unruly and flamboyant mess, overly fond of the bottle and inclined to take her clothes off without official permission. She had agreed to go along with Moscow Centre’s designs on Dejean in exchange for a permit to acquire a room in the city.

Maurice Dejean, The Epic Honey Trap: A Classic Case Shows Just How Far Moscow Will Go


French diplomat Maurice DeJean entering the Soviet Foreign Affairs Ministry.

The legend: Her husband, “Misha,” was a geologist away on assignment in Siberia. He was insanely jealous and given to fits of violence. No matter. At a lunch fixed at a former KGB colonel’s house, Dejean asked Lora to take him back to her apartment (another KGB spot). So she phoned Krotkov in a panic.

“Yuri, what should I do with him?”

“That’s a ridiculous question.”

“I’m serious. Oleg Mikhailovich [Gribanov] warned me not to do anything without permission. Nobody told me I could make a date today. The proposition just popped up at lunch, and I took advantage of it.”

“Very well, we’ll call from the apartment.”

Krotkov couldn’t find Gribanov to take orders, so he told Lora to go ahead and take Dejean to bed. The subsequent affair was even steamier than the one with Lydia, possibly because Lora went off script so much that she threatened to spoil the entire operation.

It happened during another picnic.

Dejean spent the entire meal lusting after Lora, while Krotkov watched the clock, given that the ambassador was due back at her “apartment” at 5 o’clock in order for Misha, a hulking Tatar employee of the KGB, and his “friend”—Kunavin himself, in disguise—to unexpectedly walk in on them.

Gribanov’s instructions to Misha, Kunavin and Lora: “I want you to beat the hell out of him,” meaning Dejean. “Really hurt him. Terrify him. But I warn you, if you leave one mark on his face, I’ll put you both in jail. And, Lora, the same goes for you if he is not in your apartment by five o’clock. This must go exactly according to schedule.”

Lora had other ideas. While driving back to Moscow, she ordered the car stopped and got out to swim in a nearby lake. Years later, in his memoir, Krotkov would recall frantically running up to Lora, now taking off her clothes as she splashed around, and hissing at her to get back into the damned car:

“She laughed in response and did whatever she pleased. (We made sure the ambassador didn’t hear us arguing, of course.) O, great is the power of woman! How right Lora was in everything, listening to her intuition and acting in accordance with some sixth sense. I was forced to follow her into the lake…. And so right in front of the ambassador’s eyes, she began undressing and climbing from the water in just her slip, which immediately conformed to her body, and when she came out of the water, she looked not just naked, but naked twice over. She came out of the water several times and walked around on the shore look like this. Poor Maurice!”

When Dejean and Lora finally made it back to the apartment, a telegram had been placed there, ostensibly from Misha saying that he’d be back from Siberia the next day. So Dejean and Lora undressed, this time together.

The code word for Misha’s abrupt entry was “Kiev” and as soon as Lora spoke it, the thuggish Tatar and Kunavin sprang into action, beating Dejean about the body and also smacking Lora around for theatrical effect. She screamed that the man they were on the verge of killing was the French ambassador, so Misha and Kunavin pretended to think it over. Misha decided that he’d instead call the police and Dejean would find himself in disgrace and out of a job in the embassy.

Dejean drove home in agony and terror.

In the apartment next door to Lora’s, the champagne glasses were clinking, as the actress-swallow still strutted around naked, taking her bows and chiding Misha and Kunavin for hitting her too hard. She’d earned her room with distinction.

Later, Kunavin received the Order of the Red Star, according to Barron. Krotkov was feted at an expensive feast at the Aragvi Restaurant. One KGB general referred to what had just transpired as “one of the most brilliant” operations “ever consummated by the organs of State Security.” He personally handed Krotkov a gold Doxa watch.

The same day he was beaten up, Dejean attended a dinner engagement black-and-blue under his black tie.

Gribanov/Gorbunov was at the dinner and, seeing a familiar face and someone plausibly in the Soviet Council of Ministers, Dejean approached him and confided all. Gribanov, ever the wise counselor, told him that if Misha sang, “he could make quite a scandal” given that Soviet law was on the jilted husband’s side in such circumstances.

Gribanov offered to try and help but made no promises to Dejean, being suitably downcast about the chances of plucking the Frenchman from his own misfortune. Days later, he delivered. Gribanov said that he’d convinced Misha to keep quiet “in the interests of Soviet-French relations.” The implicit understanding was that in future Dejean might have to return the favor.

But De Gaulle’s ascent had not yet led to the ambassador’s. So the KGB kept Dejean in its good graces; it even arranged to have Lydia return from her movie to take up with him again, all the while feeding every utterance and move by the incorrigible diplomat back to Moscow Centre.

For his part, Dejean relayed whatever Gribanov and his new secret-sharers intended for him to relay back to Paris, whether it be truthful or false.

Everything, in other words, had gone off beautifully, save for just one thing.

The assistant air attaché, Col. Louis Guibard, finally succumbed after a series of swallows had flitted past him and one proved irresistible. The KGB wasn’t as artful in entrapment this time, however. Plainclothes Chekists presented Guibard with photographic evidence of his indiscretion and told him he had two choices: either work for Moscow or be exposed. He opted for a third choice: suicide.

In death, he didn’t confess to what he had done, making it easier for the KGB to invent a story that he shot himself out of severe depression. But to one man, Krotkov, Guibard’s demise did not appear to be self-inflicted at all.

It was murder and it haunted the Georgian dramatist for years afterward and there was only one course of action he could conceive of to exorcise his demons.

While touring London with a delegation of Soviet writers and artists in 1963, Krotkov defected and explained what Barron calls one of the KGB’s “most massive entrapment operations since World War II.”

The British were shocked, but not nearly so much as their French counterparts. The counterintelligence official stationed at the French embassy in London flew back to Paris the same day he was briefed by MI6 about Krotkov’s tale. De Gaulle ordered an investigation and had Dejean recalled for interrogation.

The French concluded that everything Krotkov had said was true, but could not find evidence that Dejean had yet betrayed his country—he was still being cultivated at the time of the Soviet playwright’s defection, and had apparently not given up any state information. Nor did he know that Gribanov/Grubanov was a spy.

The entire plot had been uncovered just in time, before De Gaulle had had reason or chance to promote his old ally in the resistance to a more sensitive portfolio in the French government. When the pouty moralist De Gaulle pronounced his famous animadversion, he allegedly refused to shake Dejean’s hand in dismissing him.

Her Majesty’s Secret Service, meanwhile, faced its own dilemma: Should it out Krotkov’s story to humiliate the Russians, or would doing so only scandalize and antagonize the French, then still dyspeptic over Churchill’s policies toward Paris during the war, as the Soviets well appreciated and, indeed, tried to exacerbate. In the end, MI6 convinced Krotkov to keep his mouth shut, at least temporarily.

Krotkov came to the United States in 1969 to testify before the Senate about the Dejean case, by then no longer a secret. He decided to expatriate to these shores and write novels. He died, as it happens, the same year that his erstwhile victim Dejean did, in 1982.