Chapter Three.Agents

In present-day Soviet intelligence terminology the term 'agent' has only one meaning. An agent is a foreigner recruited by Soviet intelligence and carrying out secret tasks on its behalf. All agents, irrespective of the group or section of the GRU to which they belong, are divided into two groups: the basic agent and the supplementary agent. Basic agents fall into four categories: they are residents or group leaders; they are providers of information; they are executive agents whose main task is to kill; or they are recruiting agents. In the supplementary group are wireless operators, legalising agents, documentalists, the owners of safe houses, addresses, telephones and radio transmission points.

Head Agents

Head agents are the leaders of agent groups and agent residents. Head agents are selected from the most experienced agents available, men and women who have had long years of service and have given proof of their devotion to duty. They are invested with wide powers and possess significant financial independence. In cases where the organisation entrusted to them collapses, the head agent must take the decision to do away with unwanted people who pose a threat to it. In this and other emergencies he can always count on the full support of the GRU.

The difference between the group leader and the agent resident is that the group leader may take a whole range of important decisions concerning the group entrusted to him, but he may not recruit agents at all. The agent resident has a wider range of interests, the most important being recruitment. The group leader may be subordinate to the residency, to the illegal, undercover or agent residency or directly to the Centre, but the agent resident may only be subordinate to the Centre.


These are agents who directly obtain secret information, documents or samples of military technology and weaponry. In the recruitment of such people, it is first and foremost their access to political, military, technological and other secrets which is taken into account. It is clearly unnecessary to recruit an officer from the Ministry of Defence if one can recruit his secretary. In other words, the GRU has contact with people occupying relatively unimportant posts but with possibly greater knowledge than their superiors. With this in mind, apart from secretaries, the people of special interest to the GRU are workers in printing and typing offices which produce secret documents, cipher officers, diplomatic couriers, computer operators, communications clerks, draughtsmen and other technical personnel.

Executive Agents

These are agents recruited to carry out assassinations, diversions or sabotage. The recruitment of executive agents is not usually carried out by the central GRU, but by the local organs of the GRU—the military district departments. Sometimes even strategic intelligence needs similar specialists, but in smaller number.

Executive agents are recruited from criminal elements and from that band of naturally brutish characters who, with passing time, become accustomed to executing any orders they are given. Frequently agents who have been acting as providers of information are transferred by both the strategic and operational branches of the GRU to the category of executive agent, in cases where they may have lost their access.

Agent Recruiters

These are the most devoted and thoroughly tested agents, people who either never had access or who have lost it. As their name suggests, the GRU uses them solely for the recruitment of new agents. The most successful will eventually become group leader or sometimes agent resident.

Agent Legalisers

These are subsidiary agents. They work in the interests of illegals and as a rule are recruited and run only by illegals. Candidate for this category of agents are sought among officials of the police land passport departments, consular clerks, customs and immigration officials, and small employers of labour. Agent legalisers are subjected to especially thorough vetting, because the fate of illegals is entrusted to them. When a Soviet illegal arrives in a country the task of the legalising agent is to ensure the issue of documents by making the necessary entries in the registration books and to ensure that the illegal is in possession of the necessary documentation.

In the history of the GRU quite a few priests carrying falsified documents and registers of baptism and death have given immense service to illegals who, on the basis of false entries, have been able to obtain the necessary documents. A similar role to that of the legalising agent is played by the documentation agents. These are recruited by the undercover residency and their job is to obtain passports, driving licences and samples of official police forms. In contradistinction to the legalising agents, documentation agents do not have any direct contact with illegals. Although they obtain tens and sometimes hundreds, even thousands of passports, they have no direct knowledge of how and when the GRU is going to use them. Frequently the GRU uses the passports obtained through the good offices of documentation agents only as a sample for the preparation of similar falsified copies. Documentation agents may be recruited from among criminal classes who are occupied with the forging and selling of documents on the black market and also from clerks concerned with the production, inventory, storage and issue of passports. Frequently documentation agents have successfully worked among poor students, persuading them, for a financial consideration, to lose their passports.


These are supplementary agents engaged in transporting agent materials over state frontiers. Obviously it is not necessary to employ special couriers to transport the material into the Soviet Union or its satellites.

The basic flow of agent material which is not subject to particular suspicion goes from countries with hard regimes into countries with more soft regimes. In the opinion of the GRU, an opinion fortified by the experience of many years, the hardest country is Great Britain, followed by France, the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, Belgium and Holland. As soft countries the GRU includes Finland, Ireland and Austria among others.

The GRU also makes very wide use of countries of the Third World for this purpose, and couriers may sometimes make very long journeys before the material finally arrives in the hands of the GRU. Examples are known of material obtained in the United States going first to Latin America, then to Africa and only from Africa being conveyed to the Soviet Union. In recruiting couriers, the GRU pays particular attention to the drivers and guards of long-distance trains, commercial travellers and sailors of merchant fleets. When hi-jacking of aircraft became more frequent and controls at airports became stricter, the GRU virtually gave up recruiting the crews of airliners. If it uses these at all, it is only for transporting small-sized non-metallic objects.

The Owner of a Safe House or Flat

He is a supplementary agent occupying a position of great trust, usually recruited from among house-owners, concierges and hotel owners, in a word, all those who possess not one but several flats or dwelling places. The term 'safe flat' should be understood not only in its generally accepted meaning but also as a well-equipped cellar, attic, garage or store. For safe flats the GRU selects quiet secluded places where they may want to be able to hide a man sometimes for a length of several months; to carry out meetings, briefings and de-briefings; to change clothes and change appearances; and to hide stolen materials and photograph stolen documents. The owner of a safe house or flat is known in the colloquial language of the GRU by the abbreviation 'KK'.

The Safe Address Owner

He is an agent who receives and transmits secret messages for the GRU, usually recruited from among those people who receive copious correspondence from abroad; the work is normally restricted to inhabitants of 'soft' countries. Sources who have obtained information and intelligence in hard countries send letters in SW to these addresses and the owners transmit the correspondence to officers of the undercover residency. One interesting aspect of recruitment is that the GRU prefers middle-aged people who would not be affected by general mobilisation in the country, so that the chain of communication is not interrupted.

The possessors of secret telephones and, more recently, teleprinters are recruited by the same rules applied to the owners of secret addresses. In GRU language these types of agent networks and their possessors are known by the abbreviations 'KA', 'KT', 'KTP'.

The owners of transmitting points are used for transmitting agent materials within the limits of one city or area. Usually they are street sellers in small kiosks, stalls or paper stalls. An agent who has acquired intelligence will stop and hand over the material to the owner. Hours later, sometimes days, GRU officers will visit the stall to collect the material and hand over money for the agents together with new instructions. This avoids direct contact between the GRU and the agent. Increased security might mean the source agent using a dead-letter box which the stall holder will empty, not knowing who has filled it. The GRU will announce the dead-letter box's whereabouts to the transmitting point only after it has been filled. A different one will be used for each operation, and so even if the police discover that the GRU has a special interest in the small shop or stall and subsequently establishes that this stall serves as a transmitting point, it will still be very difficult to discover the source agent. To mount a surveillance operation in the neighbourhood of the dead-letter box is impossible since the transmitting point only acquires its location after it has been filled; the agent himself has disappeared long before. The transmitting point is known by the abbreviation 'PP'.

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In examining different kinds of agents, people from the free world who have sold themselves to the GRU, one cannot avoid touching on yet another category, perhaps the least appealing of all. Officially one is not allowed to call them agents, and they are not agents in the full sense of being recruited agents. We are talking about the numerous members of overseas societies of friendship with the Soviet Union. Officially, all Soviet representatives regard these parasites with touching feelings of friendship, but privately they call them 'shit-eaters' ('govnoed'). It is difficult to say where this expression originated, but it is truly the only name they deserve. The use of this word has become so firmly entrenched in Soviet embassies that it is impossible to imagine any other name for these people. A conversation might run as follows: Today we've got a friendship evening with shit-eaters', or Today we're having some shit-eaters to dinner. Prepare a suitable menu'.

Officers of both the GRU and the KGB have very much more respect for their agents than for the shit-eaters. The motives of agents are clear — an easy life and plenty of money. If you take risks and lose, then no money and no easy life. To the end of his life the agent will not be able to tear himself away from this servitude — as is the case in the criminal world. But the behaviour of the numerous friends of the Soviet Union is utterly incomprehensible to Soviet people. In the Soviet Union everybody without exception wishes to be abroad, to go absolutely anywhere, even if only with one eye to look at Mongolia or Cambodia. Oh! to be abroad, is the cry, led by the children of Brezhnev, Gromyko and Andropov. When Soviet people want to say that a thing is outstandingly good, they say, 'Really, this must be foreign.' It does not matter which country it comes from, or what its quality or age — it has to be foreign. But suddenly one finds these friends of the Soviet Union, who enjoy all the fruits of civilisation down to Gillette razor blades, who can buy anything they want in the shops, even bananas, and yet they praise the Soviet Union. No, these people are nothing but shit-eaters according to Soviet intelligence. The contempt felt for them does not prevent the GRU and KGB from using them whenever they can. They do everything free, and they will even come to meetings in secure places like the Soviet Embassy.

The recruitment of such people is not recommended by the Central Committee, but why bother to recruit them when they bring such advantages without being recruited? The GRU usually makes use of the shit-eaters 'in the dark', in other words not saying what they are used for or how much they benefit from their services. They usually ask from them information about their neighbours, friends, acquaintances, fellow workers and so on. Sometimes one of them is asked to organise an evening party with one or another of his acquaintances, after which the GRU thanks him and tells him to forget what has happened. They are very good people, they forget everything.