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Russia Sentences Accused Spy to Jail

Ex-agent who allegedly sold secrets to CIA gets 18 years. He was held after he returned to visit relatives, and his wife contends he was set up.

June 12, 2003|Robyn Dixon | Times Staff Writer

MOSCOW — A trip home to Moscow to visit relatives in 2001 turned into an 18-year jail sentence for a former Russian intelligence colonel who was convicted Wednesday in a secret court hearing of spying for the United States.

Weeping at her Maryland home, the wife of Alexander Zaporozhsky declared Wednesday that a guilty man would never have returned to Moscow. Galina Zaporozhsky said her husband went back under his own name, having visited a consulate to get a new passport.

But Sergei Ignatchenko, a spokesman for the Federal Security Service, or FSB, a successor agency to the KGB, said the evidence against Zaporozhsky was overwhelming.

Zaporozhsky, 52, worked for Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service, formerly part of the KGB. According to Ignatchenko, Zaporozhsky left Russia illegally in 1997 for the U.S., where he sold his secrets to the CIA, and was "lured back" in November 2001 and arrested.

Galina Zaporozhsky, 49, said in a phone interview that her family was devastated by the conviction and sentencing. The couple have two sons in the U.S. -- Pavel, 28, and Maxim, 21. She believes that material presented as evidence against her husband was concocted by the FSB.

"My husband is innocent. He has not betrayed his country. Could any sober person believe that a person who felt guilty, let alone someone who committed an act of state treason, would ever risk going back to his home country of his free will?" Galina Zaporozhsky asked. Russia's Kommersant Daily newspaper has quoted intelligence sources as saying that Zaporozhsky betrayed Robert Philip Hanssen, the American convicted of spying for the Soviet Union and Russia. Hanssen was arrested in February 2001 and Zaporozhsky in November that year. However, Russian authorities have never admitted that Hanssen was their spy.

The judge in Zaporozhsky's case added two years to the 16 years sought by the prosecutor, a fact that the FSB spokesman cited as proof of guilt. But his wife said it demonstrated pressure from authorities.

Russian officials contradicted one another on key details about Zaporozhsky -- for example, the date of his retirement.

Ignatchenko said Zaporozhsky was a Russian foreign intelligence officer who approached the CIA in 1995 and was recruited the same year. But Boris Labusov, a Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman, said Zaporozhsky was discharged from the service in 1992 or 1993.

Ignatchenko said Zaporozhsky quit in 1997 and was in the U.S. a month later, in early 1998.

"In 1997, quite unexpectedly for his colleagues, he quit the service, which came as a surprise to all. In 1998 he left secretly for the United States without informing anyone," Ignatchenko said.

He said Zaporozhsky worked as a double agent in Russia from 1995 until 1997 and was promoted to colonel during that time. This detail, which would be embarrassing to the foreign service, could explain the discrepancy over the dates of Zaporozhsky's service.

The FSB said Zaporozhsky lived in Cockeysville, Md., and reportedly worked at a local firm, Water Shipping Co. Galina Zaporozhsky also said her husband worked for the company. But Ignatchenko said this was "a legend created for him by the CIA." The Times could not locate any firm with this name.

"We even have a picture here of his house. It is very [big]. Then he buys a few more houses. So he had quite a sufficient income there," Ignatchenko said.

*

Times staff writers Alexei V. Kuznetsov and Sergei L. Loiko contributed to this report.

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