Thursday, November 11, 2010

Spy Story: "Does an ice pick in the back await the man who betrayed Anna Chapman?"

From Foreign Policy's Passport blog:

An unnamed Russian official has told Russia's generally reputable Kommersant newspaper that an assassin has been dispatched to dispense some Soviet-style justice against a former SVR colonel identified only as Shcherbakov, who allegedly controlled the ring of sleeper agents arrested in the United States last June and fled Russia just days before they were arrested: 
"You can have no doubt -- a Mercader has already been sent after him."
Ramón Mercader was the KGB-hired Spanish communist who was sent to kill Leon Trotsky with an ice pick in Mexico in 1940. [...]
"The fate of such a person is unenviable. All his life he will drag this with him, living every day in fear of retribution."
So for blowing Russia's inside source on the Montclair Parent-Teacher Association, this guy gets elevated to the level of Leon Trotsky?

It's true that the arrest of "the illegals" can be seen as a sign of the return to KGB-era espionage tactics after a period during which the SVR tried unsuccessfully to distance itself from its past. And the involvement of Russian intelligence has been suspected in a number of other assassinations, notably former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed by polonium poisoning in London in 2006. 

But telegraphing an assassination plan in advance is going to make plausible deniability a bit tough if something happens to Shcherbakov in the near future. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin was a bit subtler back in July, saying, "The special services live under their own laws, and everyone knows what these laws are" and "Traitors always end badly. As a rule, they end up in the gutter as drunks or drug addicts." 
From the New York Post:

Russian newspaper names 'traitor' agent who outed Anna Chapman's spy ring: report
The man responsible for exposing a Russian spy ring, including sexy spygirl Anna Chapman, in the US was named Thursday by Russian newspaper the Kommersant as Colonel Shcherbakov.

Anna Chapman was one of the busted spies.
Anna Chapman was one of the busted spies.
Photos: Sexy Russian 'spy' Anna Chapman
The newspaper claimed Shcherbakov, a spy handler with Russia's national intelligence service, provided information to US federal agents in their investigation and arrest of 10 deep cover Russian agents in June.
The colonel was aided in his "betrayal" by his daughter, who is a long term resident in the US, the report said.
It claimed Shcherbakov fled Russia for the US in June, just days before the undercover agents were arrested.

Shcherbakov's son was also said to have quit his government post and traveled to the US before the spy ring was exposed, in a dramatic Cold War-style sting operation that dated back several years.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin since denounced the then-unnamed collaborator as someone "who will end up on booze, or drugs -- under the fence," the newspaper said.
"The fate of such a person is unenviable," a senior Kremlin source told Kommersant. "All his life he will be ... afraid of retaliation."...MORE
HT on the Post article: Economic Policy Journal