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Ex-Agent Leads Fight Against Powerful KGB

July 23, 1990|MICHAEL PARKS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Kalugin's criticism, which he began internally within the State Security Committee, as the KGB is formally known, and continued through party channels, cost him his position as chief of foreign counterespionage and then as the deputy head of the KGB office in Leningrad.

Forcibly retired in March, he began to make his case publicly last month, and the government promptly stripped him of his rank, his decorations and his pension. The KGB now describes him as a vain, careless, undisciplined officer whose incompetence cost it key agents in the United States and whose quarrelsome nature made his removal imperative.

"Our patience with him was over," Vladimir A. Kryuchkov, the head of the KGB, told the Communist Party congress this month when he was called on to answer Kalugin's charges. "He tried to blackmail the leadership of the State Security Committee (with threats of disclosures), but the KGB makes no deals on questions of conscience."

Kalugin dismisses the charges as "typical KGB disinformation, an attempt to distract people from the points that I am making by talking about my love for a 'bohemian lifestyle' and hinting at 'dark deeds' of some sort."

"Were any of it true," he went on, "why did Kryuchkov sign my retirement papers with an official characterization of me as an extremely professional, highly qualified, almost brilliant intelligence officer? I have an impeccable record, and that allows me to speak freely. They can collect all sorts of lies, but put against my official record, they fade away."

Kalugin is gaining support, particularly among radical reformers who have long contended that removal of the KGB from domestic Soviet politics is essential for the success of perestroika --President Mikhail S. Gorbachev's program for restructuring Soviet society. It is a rare day on which Kalugin is not interviewed in the Soviet press, on the radio or even on state television.

"In the long run, Kalugin has done more for the prestige of the KGB than its official troubadours by demonstrating that it does have brave people, anxious for perestroika , within its ranks," the avant-garde weekly Moscow News said in a flattering profile of Kalugin. "By a mysterious but good Russian law, the more a system throws mud at its victim, the higher his prestige among the people."

Kalugin joined the KGB when he graduated from Leningrad State University. His first assignment was as one of the first Soviet exchange students to come to the United States, where he studied journalism at Columbia University in New York in 1958.

He returned in 1960 for a four-year assignment as a Radio Moscow correspondent at the United Nations and later in the 1960s as the deputy chief of the KGB station at the Soviet Embassy in Washington, where he was listed as a press attache.

He continued to specialize in U.S. affairs, handling among others the Walkers, a family of U.S. Navy personnel who have been convicted of providing top-secret codes and other material to the Soviet Union.

"I can mention the Walkers because they have confessed and have implicated me," he said. "There were more than a few others I cannot mention."

In Moscow, Kalugin maintained his diplomatic cover by working in the Foreign Ministry press department, where he developed extensive contacts with American journalists and diplomats.

"I suppose I started to question things in the late 1960s, and the invasion of Czechoslovakia (in 1968) was critical," he recalled. "I was in Washington, and I had reported extensively that the United States was not involved in the 'Prague Spring' (the ill-fated Czechoslovak attempt at internal reform) and was even a bit surprised by its scope.

"Yet, when we invaded, it was with the excuse of Western involvement. When I returned to Moscow, I found that all my messages had been withheld and destroyed by the KGB leadership in order to justify the crushing of the Prague Spring."

There were other events. A decade later, reassigned to Leningrad after defending a dissident scientist, Kalugin was appalled at the extensive corruption in the city. He tried to clean it up, he said, but was reprimanded. He wrote to KGB headquarters in Moscow but was reprimanded again. Then he wrote the party's Central Committee--and was summoned by his superiors to Moscow and told that he would be cashiered if he continued.

"I really made my decision four, five years ago," he recalled. "I was told that one more letter would end my career, that I would be sacked. I wrote again and again."

At that time, Kalugin said, he hoped that Gorbachev's reform program would transform the KGB along with the rest of Soviet society.

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