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21/06/2023 | Russian intelligence planned to assassinate SVR defector living in the United States

Joseph Fitsanakis

THE RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE SERVICES planned to assassinate a Russian former intelligence officer, who had defected to the United States and was living in an apartment complex in Florida, according to a new report.

 

The alleged assassination plan is discussed in the forthcoming book Spies: The Epic Intelligence War Between East and West (Simon and Schuster), authored by Harvard University academic Calder Walton.

According to Dr. Walton, Russian intelligence targeted Aleksandr Poteyev, who served as Deputy Director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) from 2000 until 2010. Poteyev was reportedly in charge of the SVR’s Directorate “S”, which oversees the work of illegals —a term that refers to SVR operations officers who work in without official cover around the world. It is believed that Poteyev began working for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 1999, as an agent-in-place.

By 2010, when he openly defected to the United States, Poteyev had provided the CIA with information that led to the high-profile arrest of 10 Russian illegals by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Some believe that the SVR defector was also responsible for the arrests of Russian spies in Germany and Holland. In 2011, a Russian court tried Poteyev in absentia and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. Poteyev remains at large and is believed to be living in the United States under the protection of the CIA’s National Resettlement Operations Center.

On Monday, The New York Times reported that it had independently confirmed Dr. Walton’s claims, with the help of “three former senior American officials who spoke” to the paper “on the condition of anonymity”. According to The Times, a 2016 report by the Moscow-based Interfax news agency, which claimed that Poteyev had died in the United States, was part of a deliberate disinformation operation by the SVR, which was aimed at enticing the defector to emerge from his hideout.

When that attempt failed, the SVR allegedly recruited a Mexican scientist who lived in Singapore, Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes, to travel to Miami, Florida, in 2020, in order to locate Poteyev. But Fuentes attracted the attention of the authorities while driving around in Miami and was subsequently detained by US Customs and Border Protection agents as he was trying to board a flight to Mexico City. Fuentes then provided details of his mission to the FBI. The Bureau eventually determined that the goal of the SVR had been to assassinate Poteyev.

According to The New York Times, the realization that the SVR had planned to carry out an assassination operation on American soil “spiraled into a tit-for-tat retaliation by the United States and Russia”, which included cascading sanctions and diplomatic expulsions on both sides. The paper reports that, in April 2021, the White House ordered the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats from the United States, including the SVR’s chief of station, who had two years left on his Washington, DC, tour. The Kremlin responded by expelling an equal number of American diplomats from Russia, including the CIA station chief in Moscow.

Intelnews.org (Estados Unidos)

 



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