Table of contents:

The most notorious failures of Western special agents in the USSR
The most notorious failures of Western special agents in the USSR

If declassified foreign spies were expelled from the country or imprisoned, then Soviet citizens recruited by the CIA or MI6 would inevitably face execution.

1. Powers' unsuccessful flight

An open hearing of the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court in the case of the American pilot Francis Harry Powers

On May 1, 1960, at 8 hours 53 minutes in the morning, over the "capital of the Urals" Sverdlovsk (today - Yekaterinburg), Soviet air defense forces shot down an American high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft U-2, which violated the state border of the USSR. Pilot Francis Gary Powers, who jumped out with a parachute, was detained on the ground by local residents.

It was not possible to shoot down an American immediately after crossing the Pakistani-Soviet border - the U-2 went at an altitude of 24 km unattainable for the air defense forces. Only when it dropped to 14 km over Sverdlovsk was it overtaken by one of the eight missiles fired at it. Another missile was mistakenly hit by the MiG-19 going to intercept, the pilot of which was killed.

Remains of the shot down U2 aircraft piloted by the American pilot Francis Henry Powers, displayed in the Gorky Central Park

As it turned out during interrogations, Powers, on the instructions of the CIA, was supposed to fly the entire territory of the Soviet Union from the border with Pakistan to Norway, while photographing industrial and military facilities of a potential enemy.

The incident immediately led to an international scandal. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower officially announced that the pilot had simply gone off course while performing meteorological research. In response, the USSR made available to the public a complete set of special spy equipment, seized from Powers himself and found among the wreckage of his crashed plane.

Physical evidence in the Francis Henry Powers case

On August 19, 1960, Francis Gary Powers was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage. However, he did not have to sit in prison for a long time. On February 10, 1962, he was exchanged for an illegal Soviet intelligence agent, Rudolf Abel, discovered in the United States.

2. The collapse of the "Hero"

Defendant Oleg Penkovsky, accused of spying for the United States and Great Britain

He was considered one of the most effective Western agents in the USSR in the entire history of the Cold War. For several years, Oleg Penkovsky, Colonel of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the USSR, worked fruitfully for the American and British special services.

Penkovsky himself sought contact with the West. In June 1960, he asked several American tourists in Moscow to send a letter from him to their embassy. It described in detail how on May 1 of the same year the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft of Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Sverdlovsk. In April 1961, the colonel was recruited by MI6 on a mission to London.

Technical equipment for espionage that belonged to the colonel of the Soviet military intelligence Oleg Penkovsky

Oleg Penkovsky, who received the operational pseudonym "Hero", supplied his new Western colleagues with secret information about the state of the Soviet Armed Forces, about the Group of Soviet Occupation Forces in Germany, Soviet-Chinese relations, and the sentiments that reigned in the highest echelons of power in the USSR. With the help of a miniature Minox camera, he made 111 films, on which 5500 documents were filmed with a total volume of 7650 pages. Through his efforts in the West, 600 Soviet intelligence officers were neutralized.

The "hero" was promised American citizenship and a high position in the intelligence structures of the United States or Great Britain. But these plans were not destined to come true. The KGB tracked Penkovsky in late 1961, when he was seen in the company of an employee of the British embassy, ​​Anna Chisholm, who was suspected of espionage.

During the year, the Soviet special services monitored Oleg Penkovsky, identified his connections and contacts. In October 1962, he was arrested. Soon his messenger Greville Wynn was arrested.

The trial of the Anglo-American spies Oleg Penkovsky and Greville Wynn (2nd left)

“In the case of the traitor to the Motherland Penkovsky and Wynn, it was established that the carelessness, political myopia, irresponsible chatter of some servicemen with whom Penkovsky met and drank, directly contributed to his criminal activities,” wrote the head of the KGB investigative department Nikolai Chistyakov: “But in this case it was noted and other.

Penkovsky was surrounded not only by drinking companions and rotozei, but also by keen-sighted, perceptive people. Their signals about Penkovsky's excessive curiosity about matters not directly related to him, and about some of his suspicious actions formed the basis of the work of our security officers to expose a dangerous criminal."

Greville Wynn was sentenced to eight years in prison (in April 1964 he was exchanged for the intelligence officer Conon the Young who was captured in Britain). A number of American and British diplomats implicated in the Penkovsky affair were expelled from the country. The very same "Hero" was waiting for a more severe fate. He was stripped of his title, all awards and shot for treason on May 16, 1963.

3. The failure of the Soviet millionaire

Adolf Tolkachev

This leading designer of the secret research institute of radio engineering for six years was the most valuable CIA agent in the USSR. “A dissident at heart,” as Adolf Tolkachev described himself, he transmitted to the West a lot of valuable information regarding the defenses of the Soviet Union.

For a long time Tolkachev was looking for access to the Western special services and finally, on January 1, 1979, he managed to meet with a CIA resident in the USSR. He immediately realized what an exceptional shot fell into his hands.

Adolf Tolkachev June 9, 1985

For his services, Adolf Tolkachev asked for huge sums with six zeros, explaining that money for him is a sign of respect, evidence that his work is appreciated. Despite the fact that the CIA did not agree to such conditions, his annual salary of several hundred thousand dollars in 1979 was equivalent to the salary of the President of the United States, and in subsequent years even exceeded it.

For six years, about two million dollars had accumulated on the foreign account of the Soviet engineer. In addition, in the USSR he received 800 thousand rubles, despite the fact that in the research institute he was paid about 350 rubles a month - quite well by Soviet standards.

Tolkachev gave the United States classified information about the projects of missiles, anti-aircraft missile systems, radars and avionics of MiG and Su fighters. Thanks to this information, the Americans were able to save several billion dollars on their own developments, and also quite easily deal with Saddam Hussein's MiGs during Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1991.

Detention of Tolkachev

Detention of Tolkachev. - ‘The Billion Dollar Spy’ by David E. Hoffman / Corpus, 2017

The "billion dollar spy", as Tolkachev was nicknamed in the CIA, was able to hold out for a long time thanks in large part to his caution. Possessing enormous financial resources, he bought himself only a modest car and a small dacha.

Tolkachev was betrayed by a CIA officer who fled to the USSR in 1985, Edward Lee Howard. On September 24, 1986, a millionaire Soviet engineer was shot for high treason.

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