Pyotr Semyonovich Popov (died 1960) was a major in the Soviet military intelligence apparatus (GRU). He was the first GRU officer successfully recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency. Between 1952 and 1958, he provided the United States government with large amounts of information concerning military capabilities and espionage operations.
Popov first made contact by slipping a letter into the parked car of a United States intelligence officer in Vienna. He seemed to be motivated by a deep anger at what he felt was government exploitation of the peasants of Russia, including his own family.
In Vienna, and later Berlin, he brazenly contacted the Americans, delivering copies of secret documents. Popov described the organization of the Soviet military command, provided the names of Soviet intelligence agents in Europe and gave insight into the 'illegals' network run by the Soviets.
Reportedly, Margarita Nikolievska Tairov, an 'illegal' agent trained for work in the USA, was scheduled to meet another agent (in fact, her husband, Igor), identified as Walter Anthony Sjoa. Travelling as Mary Grodnik, she noticed she was under surveillance, allegedly all the way from Templehof. (Certainly, her entirely innocuous behavior, and her husband's, including their abrupt disappearance, suggest they suspected something was amiss.) She reported this, and the matter was heavily investigated by Moscow. The investigation pointed to Popov, who had been the woman's control officer in East Berlin. He may also have been exposed by British double agent George Behar, who inadvertently learned the CIA was using a senior Soviet intelligence officer stationed in East Germany as a mole.
Other sources indicate a coded letter to Popov, sent by the CIA and intercepted by the KGB, led to his arrest. (This may be a misunderstanding. Popov passed a letter to British intelligence, of which Behar became aware.) He was executed by Soviet authorities in 1960.
References[edit | edit source]
- Hood, William. Mole (New York: Ballantine, 1983), p.217.
- Hood, pp.203-4 & 217.
- Hood, p.235.
- Hood, p.219.
- Hood, p.238.
- Hood, pp.221-6 & 235-7.
- Hood, pp.246-7.
- Hood, p.246-7.