Top ex-KGB general tells correspondent.world why Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin would be hurt by a Europe-wide ban.10 September 2020
WORLD EXCLUSIVE: By Paul Martin , Washington DC.
One of Russia’s top ex-KGB officers has called on Boris Johnson and Europe’s leaders to ban Russian leader Vladimir Putin from all official visits to Europe and from international summits — in a strong response to a series of poison attacks against his opponents at home and abroad.
General Oleg Kalugin, in an exclusive interview with Correspondent.world from a hideout in the USA, urged Johnson and other European heads of government to take “tough measures” against Putin – or else the Russian leader will, he said, become even more “arrogant and dangerous”.
He accused the Western leaders of giving Putin a “free pass”.
“These European leaders are showing him weakness, and Putin is ruthless to any person or country he considers is weak,” said the former head of the KGB’s First Directorate (Counter-Intelligence). “Putin is as ugly now in political actions as he was years ago.”
“Putin should be personally isolated – banned from coming to Europe or anywhere in the West, and any international summits – until he admits his crimes and apologises. Of course he is too arrogant to do that.
“That sort of ban would hit him hard personally.
“Breaking diplomatic relations with Russia by Britain, and other European countries would be the next step,” Kalugin suggested.
“When the Russians see Putin has shamed Russia and turned the motherland into a pariah state, this will ruin his reputation inside the country,” Kalugin said.
“Of course he will go on rigging elections, but pressure on him will have an effect.”
Gen. Kalugin, 85, knows a thing or two about the Russia’s complex internal security structures, and about the Russian leader himself. Putin used to serve in the KGB under Gen. Kalugin when Kalugin was deputy head of the KGB’s operations in Leningrad, Putin’s home city.
“I must say I did not see him as being particularly talented – just one of the many junior officers.
“Putin was just a junior officer in the KGB in Leningrad when I was sent out there in 1977.As a captain in the KGB his role was to keep tabs on anyone we suspected of being in touch with foreign powers.
“He would bring me paperwork to sign to carry out various missions, and stand there respectfully as I signed. He was in plain clothes not uniform because of what he had to do.
“We never socialised. When I had lunch in our huge KGB dining-room, eating food the rest of Leningrad could only dream of in those days of shortages, he would have his lunch with the junior officers – nowhere near where I sat with senior colleagues or VIP guests.
“He got taken off to Moscow to be the lackey of Boris Yeltsin in the Kremlin because he was recommended by the mayor of Leningrad, a friend of Yeltsin. I would never have recommended Putin, as he was showing no special abilities at all.
“Yeltsin later said he made two big mistakes as leader of Russia. One was invading Chechnya. The other was appointing Putin as his successor. I agree with Yeltsin on that.”
Becoming out of favour with the KGB bosses, Gen. Kalugin was assigned the role of interacting with the British traitors Philby, McLean, Burgess and Blake, who had all come to Moscow. “We got useful help from them in understanding the weaknesses inside the West,” he recalls.
“Andropov had favoured me over the intelligence chief Kryuchkov who hated me because Andropov would often invite me to his private office for a drink and a chat, not him… so when Andropov died I knew my career in the KGB was on a downward slide.”.
Putin and Gen. Kalugin are bitter enemies.
“Putin is becoming more and more dangerous because he is literally getting away with murder or attempted murder,” Gen. Kalugin said from a location on America’s east coast.
“To appreciate why a ban on him would have a strong effect, you need to understand his psyche. He is a deeply lonely man, and hates rejection. His family has fallen out with him. His wife left him, and both his daughters have cut themselves off from him.”
This, says Kalugin, helps explain why Putin plans to cling on to power for at least ten more years.
“Putin is in full control of all the Russian security services and the order to kill Navalny must have come directly from him.”
Kalugin told Correspondent.world he still has some high-level sources inside the Kremlin. One of these sources had tipped him off about the Russian’s second-last target on British soil – the former Soviet spy Alexander Litvinenko.
“I called Litvinenko from Moscow and warned him not to make any further public accusations about Putin and his sordid private life – as they were planning to kill him if he kept speaking out. About six months later, unfortunately, I was proved right.”
One of Putin’s victims is the leader of Russia’s opposition, Alexei Navalny, who is fighting for his life after a poison attack.
Analysts are puzzled as to why the Russian authorities had allowed a German plane to pick up Navalny on August 20 2020 from Siberia and fly him to a Berlin hospital, where he has just emerged from an induced coma.
German scientists say they have conclusively showed that Navalny had been infected with novichok – the same deadly poison used in Salisbury (southern England) on Sergei Skripal, who, many years earlier, had defected to the UK from the Soviet military intelligence service, the GRU.
Gen Kalugin rejected suggestions that Putin actually wanted the world to discover the poisoning of Navalny, and of other victims, as a sort of grim warning to all who oppose him.
“No, I know how he thinks and how Russia’s security services work. It’s clear that these poisonings were all intended to kill — but without leaving any incriminating evidence. The operations against Navalny and earlier against Skripal just went wrong.
“Actually poisoning is a common Russian security tactic, mainly because it’s not easy to uncover – and I should know,” Gen. Kalugin said. “I was present when the KGB leadership agreed to kill Georgi Markov, the Bulgarian dissident based in London and working for the BBC,” he told Correspondent.world.
“A poisoned dart from an umbrella killed him on London Bridge. And no-one would have suspected anything more than a heart attack – except one doctor saw a strange small mark on his skin.”
In 1993, General Kalugin was arrested in connection with the Markov murder when he flew in to London. After spending a “very unpleasant” night in a police cell, he was set free when the Russian ambassador intervened.
“Our embassy got me out the next day and I flew back to Moscow. I was not the killer of Georgi Markov.”
“All I had done was to sit at KGB headquarters in 1978 with our chief Yuri Andropov [later Soviet Union President] and his deputy. It was his reluctant decision – at the Bulgarian president’s request.”
[“The Bulgarian secret service, which was anyway under our control, did not have the expertise to do the job. We did.]
“My department, counter-intelligence, never carried out killings. Our job was to get secret information.”
He went on: “Our science and technology directorate had the weapon designed and constructed in Japan. It was an umbrella that fired a small dart into Markov’s leg. I believe that department still exists.”
He said British security services should have learned lessons after failing to protect defector Alexander Litvinenko, who was poisoned with highly-radioactive polonium in London in 2006. Kalugin said: “He met with his killers more than once without MI5 intervening or getting close protection.
“It didn’t take a genius to work out Litvinenko’s life was deeply in danger.”
Putin has called Gen. Kalugin an American stooge. The ex-KGB official told correspondent.world: “I publicly accused Putin of being a mass murderer for waging war in Chechnya.
“I’ve also had the guts to attack Putin in a book. If I had been living in Britain instead of the US, I would have been dead long ago.”
Kalugin believes Putin could order more assassinations or poisonings against opponents – whether in Europe or inside his own country – unless European governments hit back against Russia’s latest assassination attempt with tough measures.
General Kalugin told Correspondent.world that the president saw Britain and European governments as a “soft touch”.
He said: “The Russians wouldn’t dare mount assassinations inside the USA, but because Europe is weak, they assess it’s possible to do it there without serious consequences.”
In his American bungalow, where the 85-year-old is shielding from Covid-19, Gen. Kalugin still keeps in touch with the world of espionage.
His favourite photo, though, is somewhat fictional. It shows Putin shaking hands with Josef Stalin, the Soviet Union’s mass-murdering dictator.
“It’s only small, and in black-and-white. But I plan now to have it blown up bigger, framed and out above my fireplace.
“I love that picture as it reflects current reality,” chuckles Gen. Kalugin.