A respected Russian business daily revealed on Thursday the biography of one of the 10 Russian spies arrested in the United States in June, Mikhail Vasenkov, aka Juan Lazaro.
Kommersant journalists carried out an investigation into this past summer's spy row between Russia and the United States when 10 people were arrested in the United States and then freed in a swap deal between both countries.
Sixty five-year-old Vasenkov was one of the most experienced spies working for Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR). In the 1960s, the undercover agent started his career as a photographer in Spain and Chile.
"He is a brilliant photographer, this is impossible to imitate. So he made the spy cover from his talent," Kommersant quoted an unknown SVR officer as saying
In the 1970s, already celebrated photographer Juan Lazaro married a Peruvian-born journalist in the New York-based Spanish-language newspaper El Diario La Prensa, Vicky Pelaez. The couple then moved to the United States, reportedly after the SVR's order.
Pelaez and Vasenkov-Lazaro lived in a quiet, upscale neighborhood of Yonkers outside New York City.
"During his work, Vasenkov became so assimilated that he practically forgot Russian," the SVR source said. "He is a high class professional who would never have been exposed if it were not for a traitor."
Kommersant daily said Vasenkov's wife could have been sincere when saying that she had no idea her husband of 30 years was Russian since his biography was absolutely clear for everyone around him.
Numerous friends, university fellows, colleagues as well as his children and wife could confirm under oath any fact from Vasenkov's "life," Kommersant said.
Vasenkov was equally successful in both his roles. As a respected U.S. citizen, Lazaro received three degrees and a PhD in political science. As a Russian spy, Vasenkov once managed to get the U.S. president's foreign trips schedule.
In the 1980s, the Soviet government secretly awarded Vasenkov a USSR Hero badge.
Prior to his arrest in June, Vasenkov was ranked a general (ret.).
Vasenkov's career was put to an end when the Russian double agent identified by Kommersant as Shcherbakov revealed to the United States a dossier on the Russian spy ring.
FBI interrogators were so active making Vasenkov confess in working for the SVR, that they had reportedly broken three of his ribs and a leg, Kommersant said.
"These are Iraqi methods," an anonymous retired SVR officer said commenting on the FBI's interrogation methods. "What comes to mind are the videos we saw from Iraqi prisons. They could not outplay him honestly and resorted to impermissible foul play. Yes, they probably always do that in American football, but this is not American football!"
After being deported to Russia, Vasenkov only said to his employers that he was not going to live in this country and was set to move abroad, Kommersant cited SVR officers as saying.
"Everything that happened is not just a betrayal. To hand a dossier on sleeper agents to the enemies is a clear f**k-up. This had never happened before," the SVR source told Kommersant.
The SVR has strongly denied making any comments on the Kommersant article or any details of the spy scandal.
MOSCOW, November 11 (RIA Novosti)