26 October 2006

Michael Smith New Cloak, Old Dagger

I came across another reference to my case today, which was a photocopy Stephen Dorril sent me of some pages from my namesake’s book New Cloak, Old Dagger: How Britain’s Spies Came in from the Cold, by the journalist Michael Smith, published by Victor Gollancz in 1996. The relevant paragraphs are:

In July 1992, MI6 had an even more startling success. Col Viktor Oshchenko, the 52-year-old head of Russian intelligence in Paris, was spirited out of France and into Britain. Like Gordievsky, he had been recalled to Moscow where, according to the Russian foreign intelligence service, the SVR, ‘certain aspects of his work had given cause for suspicion’. He had ‘decided to defect to the West, fearing that his “double game” might be exposed’.

He told his colleagues at the Russian embassy, where he operated under cover as an economics counsellor, that he was spending the weekend travelling in the Loire valley with his wife and 14-year-old daughter Olga. Staff at the embassy first suspected that the weekend away might not be all it seemed when Oshchenko’s elder daughter rang to ask what she was supposed to do with a new car her father had had delivered to her St Petersburg home. The next day when he did not return to work, a search was set in place.

Oshchenko’s car was found abandoned at Orly airport in Paris. The British Home Office announced that he was in Britain where he had asked for political asylum. Oshchenko’s defection led to the expulsion from France of four of his former colleagues, including his deputy Sergei Smirov, who controlled a ring of spies at the heart of the French nuclear weapons programme. Oshchenko was also responsible for the arrest of Michael Smith, a British electronics engineer who had passed military secrets to the Russians, after being recruited by Oshchenko in the early 1970s.

Michael Smith quotes the following sources for this story:

‘Russian “Spy” and Family in Secret Dash to Britain’, Daily Telegraph, 14 August 1992.

‘Counsellor of Russian Embassy Disappears in Paris’, TASS, 13 August 1992.

‘Russian Spy Ring Smashed’, European, 29 October 1992.

‘Seven Spies Said to Defect in 18 Months’, Reuters, 28 October 1992.

‘MI5 Blunders Let Smith Slip the Security Net’, Daily Telegraph, 19 November 1993.