Newsbud Exclusive- KGB Swallows: Russian Intelligence & The “Honey Trap”

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On April 24, 2017, the Russian media reported that the Soviet actress Larisa Kronberg passed away in Moscow at the age of 88. She was the last living protagonist of one of the most successful Soviet counterintelligence operations during the Cold War: the secret recruitment of the French ambassador to the Soviet Union, Maurice Dejean, a leader in the French Resistance during the Second World War and a personal friend of the French president Charles De Gaulle.[1]

The Steamy Moscow Nights

Every intelligence agency keeps track of the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of potential high-level recruits. Soon after Dejean's arrival to Moscow in 1955, the KGB took notice of Dejean's proclivity for extra-marital affairs with much younger women. The general Oleg Gribanov, the head of the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, whom many noted experts and historians, including the U.S. scholar Edward Jay Epstein, consider the grand master of Cold War counterintelligence, devised a plan on how to use Dejean's weakness against him and in favor of the USSR foreign policy interests.[2]

In his book Deception, Epstein claimed that the long-time CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton had thought of Gribanov as his main Soviet antagonist.[3] Their relations seemed to partake something of that epic fictional struggle between Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. In the end, Angleton was fired by the CIA leadership, which had no patience for his multi-layered and complex counterintelligence tactics, without ever convincingly defeating Gribanov.

Gribanov's plan involved using the so-called "honey trap" or "a swallow" (in KGB terminology), a beautiful woman who would sexually compromise Dejean and then, under the threat of a public revelation, he would have no way out except to cooperate with the KGB agenda. It is likely that Larisa Kronberg was chosen because she was one of the most beautiful Soviet actresses at the time and was known in France because she received an award at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in the 1954 Soviet film "A Big Family."

Introduced to each other by mutual friends, Dejean and Kronberg began spending a lot of time together, and when, sometime in 1958, Dejean's wife was out of Russia, Gribanov decided it was the time to close the trap by catching Dejean and Kronberg in flagranti.[4] According to the account that was later published by the KGB defector Yuri Korotkov, who took part in the operation, two KGB officers, one playing the part of Kronberg's jealous husband and the other the part of a witness, broke into the apartment where Dejean and Kronberg were having sex and made an angry scene.[5] The "husband" threatened that he would report Dejean to the Soviet police, but, in accordance with the KGB scenario, Dejean was allowed to escape from the apartment and get to the French embassy. It was also arranged that on the same evening Dejean would have a scheduled meeting with Gribanov who was presented to him as the adviser to the Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev and whom, predictably, he asked for help. The rest, of course, is history.

The Russian sources claim that while under the KGB control, Dejean was successful in stoking de Gaulle's animosity toward NATO which ultimately led to the French withdrawal from the NATO military command in 1966 and the removal of NATO Headquarters from Paris to Brussels. When Korotkov's account became known in the West in 1964, Dejean resigned his position in Moscow, but seems not to have suffered any further sanctions in France.[6]

In my opinion, this was so because he was far from being the only pro-Soviet political figure in France of the 1960s. It could also be that the extent of his betrayal was judged to be negligible, or was already known to the French authorities even before Korotkov's defection. It is worth remembering that the defection of a KGB major Anatoly Golytsin in December 1961 led to many revelations concerning the KGB penetration of the Western military, security, and diplomatic structures. Dejean could have been one of those KGB sources uncovered by Golytsin. In the end, even after his resignation, Dejean did not drop out of de Gaulle’s circle of friends and later he directed the association for the French-Soviet cooperation until his death in 1982.

On the other hand, it is not clear how Kronberg became involved with the KGB and why she accepted to play the role of "a swallow." The Russian media reports that as the reward for the successful Dejean operation, she received a golden Swiss watch with diamonds. In addition, it appears that Dejean was not her only "target." Her friend Tatyana Konyuhova stated that for Lori [that is how close friends called Kronberg] "life was like a game."[7] Perhaps she worked for the KGB not only for monetary rewards and privileges, but also for adventure and thrills. Be that as it may, she took her secrets to the grave.

The Case of Katia Zatuliveter

The most recent case where the "honey trap" was allegedly used by the Russian intelligence took place in Great Britain in 2010. It involved a young Russian woman, Katia Zatuliveter, who worked as an intern for the long-time member of the British Parliament, Mike Hancock. According to the allegations, Zatuliveter used her romantic involvement with Hancock, who was 40 years older, to get access to confidential British government documents and pass them on to the Russian embassy in London. One of the best-known KGB defectors, Oleg Gordievsky, who, together with the top British historian of intelligence Christopher Andrew published a 700-page book on the KGB in the early1990s,[8] claimed at the time that Zatuliveter was "the strongest and most useful KGB agent for the last 30 years."[9]

However, the British domestic intelligence agency MI5, which pushed for Zatuliveter's deportation from Britain, failed to prove the case against her before an immigration tribunal. After a court battle that lasted almost a year, Zatuliveter was cleared of the espionage charges and allowed to stay in Britain until the expiration of her visa.[10] Zatuliveter's lawyer Tessa Gregory described the MI5 case as "built entirely on speculation, prejudice, and conjecture." It is curious that after calling the case "amateur and poorly researched," Gregory also added that it "compared very unfavorably to the professional counterespionage efforts conducted by the FBI in recent years."[11] Why would the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community be mentioned in this context? Perhaps because they had something to do with Zatuliveter's release.

In any case, Zatuliveter left Britain not long after the tribunal decision. She settled in Moscow and, interestingly, began to get involved in the Russian political opposition circles. She appeared on the Russian opposition TV broadcasts, calling for "free and fair elections" and openly criticizing the Russian government.[12] Was she "turned" by the U.S. intelligence while in the British custody?

The Western media also kept up with her anti-Putin activities in Russia. Not long before the 2012 Russian presidential election, she was quoted as saying that Putin's "time is over, he is out of touch."[13] However, Putin won the election with 64 percent of the vote.

In early 2012, Zatuliveter also began publishing a blog on the popular Russian blogging site snob.ru. Her first blog posts discussed her life in Britain, and, in one of them, she complained about her book manuscript being rejected by the Western publishers.[14] This may cast some shadow on her hypothetical cooperation with the Western intelligence. Interestingly, Zatuliveter also claimed that she worked for the Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny's 2013 campaign for the mayor of Moscow,[15] and yet, in a 2012 interview, she stated that she did not like Navalny because "Russia cannot have a nationalist in charge."[16] What made her change her mind? Could it be the outside players?

As Zatuliveter started to be become more integrated into the Moscow life, she began blogging about her new projects, such as running a publishing company. Curiously, one of her later blog posts was the invitation for the presentation of the Russian translation of Keith Melton's 2009 book Spycraft: The Secret History of CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to Al-Qaeda.[17] Once again, what could be the cause of Zatuliveter's enthusiasm about the U.S. intelligence community and its spycraft?

Zatuliveter's latest blog post was published on May 15, 2016.[18] It dealt with one of the projects organized by the youth travel group "Altourism," which she founded recently.[19] "Altourism" organizes what Zatuliveter calls the "trips with meaning." These trips are based on the idea of a group of young Moscow professionals going to some provincial town or village in Russia and helping local activists work on the project that is meaningful for both.

For instance, Zatuliveter and her associates helped a group of activists in Smolensk set up a plant-gathering and tea-making enterprise. Zatuliveter even gave a talk about this innovative type of tourism at a TEDx event in Moscow in August 2016.[20] This is the kind of the event that typically attracts the pro-Western, liberal crowd and is potentially sponsored by the Western intelligence structures.

On surface, the kind of work that Zatuliveter does now may seem far removed from the grand geopolitical designs of the U.S. intelligence community. However, travelling across Russia and working with local activists, who are more likely than not to have a negative disposition toward the central government, is not without a long-term potential for regime change. It is no doubt the kind of work that can be conceptualized as "westernizing" and whose ultimate purpose, as has been the case since the 18th century, is to corrode the Russian historical tradition of the strong state, currently embodied in the presidency of Vladimir Putin. This is why I am convinced that Zatuliveter will not be out of the Western media spotlight for too long. And the new book that, I am sure, she is writing about the "Russia of small towns" will no doubt get a publisher. Some 21st century Frederick A. Praeger, of course.[21]

# # # #

Dr. Filip Kovacevic, Newsbud Analyst & commentator, is a geopolitical author, university professor and the chairman of the Movement for Neutrality of Montenegro. He received his BA and PhD in political science in the US and was a visiting professor at St. Petersburg State University in Russia for two years. He is the author of seven books, dozens of academic articles & conference presentations and hundreds of newspaper columns and media commentaries. He has been invited to lecture throughout the EU, Balkans, ex-USSR and the US. He currently resides in San Francisco. He can be contacted at fk1917@yahoo.com

NOTES

[1] https://rg.ru/2017/04/24/umerla-zvezda-devushki-s-gitaroj-i-agent-kgb-aktrisa-larisa-kronberg.html

[2] https://www.kp.ru/daily/26673.7/3694971/

[3] Edward Jay Epstein. Deception: The Invisible War Between the KGB and the CIA. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

[4] https://www.kp.ru/daily/26673.7/3694971/

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] http://www.eg.ru/daily/cadr/66167/

[8] Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky. KGB: The Inside Story. New York: Harper Perennial, 1990.

[9] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2052827/Katia-Zatuliveter-best-KGB-agent-30-years-claims-colonel.html

[10] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/8923568/Katia-Zatuliveter-from-Russia-with-love-but-strictly-no-spying.html

[11] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydvkMIUY3N4

[12] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVIVPviT0fE

[13] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9121083/Katya-Zatuliveter-interview-Russian-wrongly-accused-of-spying-on-Britain-on-why-she-is-campaigning-against-Putin.html

[14] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/blog/45077

[15] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/about

[16] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/9121083/Katya-Zatuliveter-interview-Russian-wrongly-accused-of-spying-on-Britain-on-why-she-is-campaigning-against-Putin.html

[17] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/blog/57611

[18] https://snob.ru/profile/24803/blog/108407

[19] http://www.altourism.ru/8

[20] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5jaBiaDlEEc

[21] https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol46no1/article08.html

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Comments

  1. Wow, great article! It’s this type of analysis and perspective that makes Newsbud so unique and just one example out of many why I subscribe and I’ve pledged to support the current kickstarter campaign. Keep up the great work! =]

  2. John Nelson says:

    I hope to see more of these articles in the future.

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