Russian Who Exposed Femme Fatale Is Identified

Former Russian Spy Now Peddles Spy Gear

Thanks to a Russian military court in Moscow, we now know who told the FBI and CIA about ten Russian “illegals,” who were arrested last year in the U.S., including the femme fatale,  Anna Chapman.

In case you have forgotten, Chapman and her colleagues where caught in June 2010 and accused of being “sleeper agents” employed by the Russian Federation’s external intelligence agency, the SVR (formerly the KGB.)  Illegals are a Russian specialty. Yuri Andropov, who oversaw the KGB from 1967 until 1982, was a huge proponent of dispatching KGB-trained Russians into foreign countries under the guise of being immigrants. Their assignment was to blend into a target country’s society and, if possible, quietly work their way into jobs where they could collect information. In some cases, sleepers were told they might never be called on by Mother Russia unless a war broke out. If that happened, the sleeper agents would be ordered to carry out military assignments, such as blowing up targets.

The idea that your seemingly ordinary next-door neighbor might secretly be a foreign spy is juicy stuff and when Chapman turned out to be both young and sexy, her arrest sparked international headlines. Most foreign intelligence agents conduct their spying activities under the guise of being dipolmats. This gives them immunity from prosecution.  But “illegals” don’t have diplomatic immunity, which means they can be arrested, just as Chapman and her co-horts were. They were later returned to Moscow as part of a spy swap. We sent them ten Russians and they gave us four alleged spies from our side.

When Chapman and the others were arrested on June 27th, my phone began ringing. Everyone assumed that Sergei Tretyakov had told the FBI and CIA about the sleeper agents. Tretyakov is the subject of my book, COMRADE J: The Untold Secrets of Russia’s Master Spy in America After the End of the Cold War.  He began working for the U.S. sometime in the mid-1990s and as the deputy rezident of the KGB/SVR’s New York office, common sense dictated that he must have known about Chapman and her pals.

I wasn’t certain if Tretyakov knew and I couldn’t ask him because — he was dead! He had died on June 13th at his home in Florida. I knew  because his wife, Helen, had told me. She’d also asked me to keep quiet about it. She didn’t want his old enemies in Moscow to know. And they probably never would have heard about his death — except for the arrest of Chapman and her buddies.

As soon as they were arrested, Sergei’s name was once again in the news.

The  FBI and CIA both began pressuring Helen to reveal that Sergei was dead. She finally agreed and on July 9th, I announced his death in this blog.

Rather than ending speculation, news that Sergei had died only added more. There were reports in Russia that the SVR/KGB had murdered Tretyakov because he had exposed the illegals. That story was encouraged in the government controlled media. Some accounts had Tretyakov being tracked down by a secret team of SVR killers.

While such banter made for exciting reading, it simply wasn’t the truth. An autopsy showed that Sergei had died after choking on a piece of meat at his home.  His death had nothing to do with Russian commando killers. There was no evidence of foul play, nor that Sergei had anything to do with exposing Chapman and her cohorts.

Now — almost exactly a year later — the final missing piece of this episode has come to light.

A military court meeting in secret in Moscow has found SVR Colonel Alexander Poteyev guilty of high treason for exposing Chapman and the others. One of the witnesses, who testified against Poteyev, was Chapman. She told the tribunal that she had become suspicious of him after an undercover FBI agent contacted her in New York using a secret code word that only Poteyev would have known. At the time, Poteyev was stationed in Moscow overseeing the illegals operation.

Poteyev was not present at his own trial because he had fled Russia shortly before the sleeper agents were arrested in June 2010. The Russian media reported that he currently is hiding in the U.S. and was paid as much as $5 million in return for betraying his native country. His wife did not flee with him and was called as a witness at his trial. In addition to treason, the military court found Poteyev guilty of desertion. He was sentenced in abstenia to 25 years in prison. The court also stripped him of his medals, military rank and his pension.

The U.S. government has not issued any statements about Poteyev nor acknowledged that he tipped off the FBI about Chapman and the others. Russian newspapers reported that Poteyev had been recruited by the U.S. in the late 1990s and worked for U.S. intelligence until last year.  His current whereabouts is unknown as is his motivation.

According to the Russian press, Poteyev escaped from Moscow by using a Russian passport that had been issued to Victor Dudochkin. When the SVR interrogated the real Victor Dudochkin, he told them that he had no idea how Poteyev could have obtained a forged copy of his passport. He’d never lost it. Then Dudochkin recalled that in 2009, he had applied for a visa to enter the U.S. and had turned over his passport to the U.S. Embassy for a short time period while the visa was being processed. The SVR speculated that CIA agents at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow secretly made a copy of Dudochkin’s passport. They used that copy when Poteyev needed to escape.

If true, that is ironic. One of the KGB’s secrets that Tretyakov revealed in my book was that the Russians routinely stole or copied documents in New York when U.S. citizens requested permission to enter Russia. A favorite trick was to demand a birth certificate from a potential visitor and then copy it before issuing a visa.

What did the KGB do with the purloined birth certificate that it stole?

It used it to help substantiate a “deep cover” for “illegals.”

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.


  1. Abbychapman says

    I just read your book Comrade J…it was so interesting!  I love reading your blog posts as well.  Thank you for keeping me so informed on interesting issues!

  2. Comrade Jaffe says

    Aha! I haven’t had so much fun reading something since Boris and Natasha in Mad!