London — A purge within the KGB by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev has prompted the recent defections of five senior KGB officers, including the defection to Washington of Vitaly Yurchenko, the Sunday Times reported.
The newspaper said Gorbachev ordered a reorganization of Soviet intelligence to rid it of officers favored by Yuri Andropov, who was chief of the Soviet intelligence agency for 15 years before becoming the Soviet leader in 1982.
Andropov died in November 1984 and was succeeded by Konstantin Chernenko who died 13 months later, paving the way for Gorbachev’s rise to power.
The Sunday Times said Gorbachev recently appointed KGB Gen. Yuri Kristsov to head a committee to reorganize the KGB and the five defected because they felt their careers were threatened by the shakeup.
The newspaper said Yurchenko, whose defection was confirmed in Washington last week, was an old rival of Kristsov.
The paper said Yurchenko, whose defection has been described as the biggest blow to the KGB since the 1930s, “realized he had little future left in Soviet intelligence.”
The Sunday Times said he rose to a post “just two steps away” from the deputy chairmanship of the KGB during Andropov’s reign but his “career came to a halt with the death of Andropov.”
The KGB chief in London whose defection was announced earlier this month, also decided to move now because “his career aspirations were halted by the shakeup.”
He had worked as a double agent for the West for nearly 20 years. But the newspaper said with the shakeup he faced a recall to Moscow, possible demotion or retirement, rendering him no longer a viable double agent.
Gordievski’s defection led to a diplomatic war between London and the Kremlin in which each side expelled 31 people accused of spies.
Article extracted from this publication >> October 6, 1985