Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Boris Solomatin Interview

Introduction

Interviewer Pete Earley
Interviewer Pete
Earley
For nearly 20 years during the height of the Cold War, Boris Aleksandrovich Solomatin oversaw most of the KGBs anti-American spy operations. The now-retired major general played a key role in the handling of John Walker Jr., the Navy officer who headed the most damaging spy ring ever to operate against the United States. Solomatin also recruited Glenn Michael Souther, a lesser-known Navy officer, who provided the KGB with some of Americas nuclear war plans before eluding the FBI and fleeing to Moscow, where he committed suicide in 1989. The Souther case is worth noting because he is considered to be the only American in recent times to have betrayed his country because of ideological reasons rather than for money.

Solomatin caused us considerable trouble wherever he was posted, a high ranking FBI counter-intelligence officer in Washington D.C. said when asked about his Russian adversary. He is considered as perhaps the best operative the KGB ever produced. The amount of damage that he did to the United States is difficult to calculate.

Yuri Andropov (AP)
Yuri Andropov (AP)
After joining the Soviet intelligence service in 1951, Solomatin rose rapidly through the ranks, eventually becoming deputy director of the KGB's First Directorate, the service which oversaw all Soviet foreign intelligence operations. He was only 44, making him one of the youngest KGB officers ever to hold such a top post. He also served during his nearly 40-year career in the KGB as the chief KGB resident agent in New Delhi, Washington D.C., New York City, and Rome, and was an adviser to KGB chief Yuri Andropov, who ran the KGB from 1967 until 1982, and later became general secretary of the Soviet Union.

This is the first interview Solomatin has ever granted to an American publication. His decision to speak was prompted, he said, by the publication of several recent books by former KGB officers who, he claims, have inflated their own importance within the KGB to appeal to Western readers.

Our interview took place in Solomatin's comfortable apartment in Moscow where he lives with his wife, Vera, in a building reserved for former top KGB agents. Still fiercely loyal to the Russian Foreign Intelligence service, Solomatin insisted that all questions posed to him be submitted first in writing. After the interview began, however, he strayed from his carefully prepared text and, spoke emotionally about his family and country. Now 70, his breathing interrupted by a nagging cough brought on by decades of heavy smoking, Solomatin spoke for three hours, in English, only occasionally pausing to take a drink of water and nibble on apple strudel prepared by his wife.

 

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