Top Russian spy changes sides?

The head of Russia’s deep-cover U.S. spying operations has betrayed the network and defected, a Russian paper said on Thursday, potentially giving the West one of its biggest intelligence coups since the end of the Cold War.

The newspaper, Kommersant, identified the man as Colonel Shcherbakov and said he was responsible for unmasking a Russian spy ring in the United States in June whose arrests humiliated Moscow and clouded a “reset” in ties with Washington.

The betrayal would make Shcherbakov one of the most senior turncoats since the fall of the Soviet Union and could have consequences for Russia’s proud Foreign Intelligence Service.

The paper said Shcherbakov had left Russia days before U.S. authorities announced the spy ring arrests on June 28 and quoted a Kremlin official as saying a Russian hit squad was probably already planning to kill him.

“We know who he is and where he is,” the unidentified official was quoted as saying. “Do not doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already.” Ramon Mercader was the Russian agent who murdered exiled Bolshevik Leon Trotsky.


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