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Obituaries

Evdokia Petrov, 88; Soviet Spy in Australia Defected With Husband

July 27, 2002|From Associated Press

SYDNEY, Australia — Evdokia Petrov, a Soviet spy who sparked an international incident when she and her husband defected to Australia in 1954, has died in Melbourne, the government said Friday. She was 88.

Petrov, who lived in the southern city for 48 years under the name Maria Anna Allyson, died July 19 of complications from an operation on her back, the Herald Sun reported Friday.

She and her husband, Vladimir, made international headlines when they defected at the height of the Cold War.

The couple arrived in Australia in February 1951, when Vladimir took up the post of third secretary at the Soviet Embassy. However, he was covertly serving as the resident KGB spy.

Evdokia Petrov was to be the embassy's accountant and secretary, with covert responsibility for deciphering and writing coded messages exchanged between the embassy and officials in Moscow.

But after three years, her husband became disillusioned with the Soviet Union and decided to defect, former Australian intelligence agent Michael Thwaites said.

A few weeks after Petrov's defection, armed Soviet agents abducted his wife and dragged her through a roaring crowd at Sydney Airport and onto a flight bound for Moscow.

She was being returned against her will to face the repercussions of her husband's defection.

But Australian police dramatically snatched her from the Soviets when the plane stopped for fuel in the northern city of Darwin.

The Petrovs were granted asylum, Australian citizenship and new identities in 1956.

Their defections resulted in the closure of the Soviet Embassy in Canberra and the expulsion of staff from the Australian Embassy in Moscow.

Thwaites said the defection also led to the unmasking of 600 Soviet spies around the world.

"They were extremely big fish as defectors," he said.

Vladimir, who lived under the assumed name Sven Allyson, died in Melbourne in 1991 at age 84.

Details about surviving relatives were not immediately available.

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