February 3, 2004 by

Vasili Mitrokhin

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Categories: Criminals, Politicians, Writers/Editors

When KGB archivist Vasili Nikitich Mitrokhin defected from the Soviet Union in 1992, he gave six trunks, full of incriminating files, to the British Secret Intelligence Service.
As a young adult, Mitrokhin attended the Higher Diplomatic Academy in Moscow, then joined the Soviet secret service in 1948. He worked as the chief archivist for the FCD, the foreign-intelligence arm of the KGB, for 30 years and spent 12 of those smuggling documents out of the office in his shoes. At home, he copied the files longhand and hid them in milk containers secreted under the floorboards of his home and in the back garden.
Disillusioned with his life, Mitrokhin contacted the CIA for help in 1995, offering 25,000 classified documents as his ticket out of the Soviet Union. The Americans didn’t believe his claims, so he turned to the British for aid. The Secret Intelligence Service accepted him as an MI6 agent, and flew him to Britain where he and his family received a home, a pension and new identities.
The copied KGB files formed the basis of the 1999 book, “The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB,” which was co-written by Cambridge University historian Christopher Andrew. Its tales of covert operations and assassination attempts were also serialized in The Times of London. The excerpts named several Britons as Soviet spies, including two former lawmakers, a Scotland Yard policeman and grandmother Melita Norwood. Norwood later acknowledged she’d been revealing nuclear secrets to the KGB for four decades.
Mitrokhin, who spent 14 years living in Britain under a false name and with police protection, died on Jan. 23 from pneumonia. He was 81.

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