In 1992, KGB archivist named Vasili Mitrokhin defected to the West with a trove of notes on the Soviets’ spying operations around the world.
After the dissolution of the Soviet Union (in 1991) Mitrokhin traveled to Latvia with copies of material from the archive and walked into the American embassy in Riga. Central Intelligence Agency officers there did not consider him to be credible, concluding that the copied documents could be faked.
He then went to the British embassy and a young diplomat there saw his potential and after a further appointment one month later with representatives of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) operations followed to retrieve the 25,000 pages of files hidden in his house, covering operations from as far back as the 1930s. The papers spent years hidden in a milk churn beneath a Russian dacha and read like an encyclopedia of Cold War espionage.
He and his family were then exfiltrated to Britain, although authorities of Yeltsin’s Russia were not creating any obstacles for free traveling abroad of active or retired members of secret services or members of their families.
Mitrokhin spent the rest of his life in Britain under a false name and police protection, dying in 2004 at 81.
Mitrokhin was a senior archivist at the KGB’s foreign intelligence headquarters — and a secret dissident. For more than a decade he secretly took files home, copied them in longhand and then typed and collated them into volumes.
The world did not learn of Mitrokhin until Andrew published a book based on his files in 1999. It caused a sensation by exposing the identities of KGB agents including 87-year-old Melita Norwood, the “great-granny spy,” who had passed British atomic secrets to the Soviets for years,
He had a list of KGB agents in America over several decades. It ran to 40 pages and about 1,000 names.
One of the most notorious agents was code-named “Dan.” He was Robert Lipka, a National Security Agency employee who was paid $27,000 for handing secrets to Russia in the 1960s. After Mitrokhin’s information was passed by Britain to U.S. intelligence services, Lipka was arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The volumes also reveal that Soviet agents stashed weapons and communications equipment in secret locations around NATO countries. Included is a map of Rome showing three caches, along with detailed instructions for finding them
he files list undercover agents sent to then-Czechoslovakia to infiltrate the dissidents behind the 1968 Prague Spring pro-democracy uprising. Others targeted the entourage of Polish cleric Karol Wojtyla, who would later become Pope John Paul II. The KGB noted with disapproval the future pontiff’s “extremely anticommunist views.”