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    DEFECTOR MITROKHIN DIDN'T HAVE ALL THAT MUCH TO SHARE WITH BRITISH INTELLIGENCE, RUSSIAN COUNTERPARTS SAY

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    MOSCOW/LONDON, JANUARY 29 (RIA NOVOSTI) - Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service has dismissed as untrue the British media reports that Vasily Mitrokhin, a KGB officer who defected to the United Kingdom in the 1990s, had a lot of sensitive information to share with the British intelligence.

    This is an overstatement, to put it mildly, a spokesperson for the Service said in a comment for RIA Novosti. The comment came after British media broke the news about Mitrokhin's death. Our interviewee turned down as false the allegation that the defector had at one time served as head of the KGB intelligence's division of archives.

    As The Times reports, Mitrokhin died on January 23, but the fact was not brought into the public domain until January 29. The man passed away five weeks before his 82nd birthday.

    The information about Mitrokhin having been in charge of the KGB archives division was also reported by the Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy.

    According to data obtained by RIA Novosti, Mitrokhin returned home from a foreign assignment in the late 1940s. He had been sent on that mission as an intelligence agent, but had made a poor showing and had had to be recalled. Since Mitrokhin was father of a disabled child stricken with poliomyelitis, Alexander Sakharovsky, then in charge of the KGB intelligence, stopped short of dismissing him from the secret services altogether, but transferred him to the archives division. The man worked in that division up to 1984 and then retired in the rank of major. In the early 1990s, Mitrokhin defected to the United Kingdom.

    Several years after the former KGB agent's defection, Mitrokhin and Andrew Christopher, the official historian of the British special services, co-authored a book entitled "The Sword and the Shield: the Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB." The British publishers contend that in the Soviet era, Mitrokhin worked in the KGB archives and had access to classified documents collected by Soviet spies over a period of seven decades.

    According to the theory advanced by The Times, Mitrokhin spent twelve years copying those materials, with a view to selling them off to Western special services. As he retired in 1984, he stashed the collection away in his dacha cache.

    In 1991, Mitrokhin decided to defect to the United States. He attempted to do so via the US Embassy to Latvia, which had just gained independence from the Soviet Union by then. He arrived in the Latvian capital of Riga by an overnight train, carrying along six briefcases filled with KGB documents. He then headed for the US Embassy, but there were too many people lining up for visas when he came along, and he decided to go to the British legation instead. Once there, Mitrokhin showed samples of his collection to an embassy official, who assured him that the British side was really interested in acquiring them. He promised he would hand in all the documents he held - in exchange for security guarantees from the British government. Just a month later, MI-6 officers got down to studying the voluminous, 2,000-page collection of KGB archives, The Times says.

    British secret agents escorted Mitrokhin, his wife and son to the UK and arranged for them to settle in a safe locale.

    On examining the documents, British intelligence experts confirmed that the information contained in them was very valuable indeed as it provided an insight into the workings of the Soviet Communist Party and the KGB, reports The Times.

    The former Soviet spy's defection remained undisclosed for seven years. In 1995, MI-6 officers introduced Mitrokhin to Andrew Christopher so that the two of them could collaborate on a book about the KGB. Their book came out in 1999.

    The date and venue of the funeral ceremony for Mitrokhin will not be made public, The Times says.

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