Former top Russian spy Sergei Tretyakov dies at 53

Sergei Tretyakov, former Colonel in the KGB and Russia

From Brett Zongker, the AP:  A former top Russian spy who defected to the U.S. after running espionage operations from the United Nations, Sergei Tretyakov, has died in Florida, his wife and a friend said Friday. He was 53.

News of his June 13 death came the same day the United States and Russia completed their largest spy swap since the Cold War.

Tretyakov’s defection in 2000 was one of the most prominent cases involving Russia’s intelligence agency in the past decade. Tretyakov later said his agents helped the Russian government steal nearly $500 million from the U.N.’s oil-for-food program in Iraq. He was 53 when he died, according to a Social Security death record.

WTOP Radio in Washington first reported his death Friday. His widow, Helen Tretyakov, told the station he died of natural causes. She said she announced his death Friday to prevent Russian intelligence from claiming responsibility or "flattering themselves that they punished Sergei."

Helen Tretyakov said her husband warned U.S. authorities when he defected that Russia was expanding deep-cover operations.

"He was aware that the part of the SVR budget for supporting illegals increased dramatically in the 1990s," she told WTOP. The SVR is the Russian intelligence agency that succeeded the KGB after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

From T. Rees Shapiro, the Washington Post:  At the time of his defection on Oct. 11, 2000, Mr. Tretyakov allegedly had been working as a double agent for the United States for three years while he was the SVR’s second-in-command in New York. From 1995 to 2000, he oversaw all Russian covert operations in the city and had more than 60 intelligence officers under his command, according to [Pete] Earley’s book.

The intelligence Mr. Tretyakov handed over during his time as a double agent amounted to more than 5,000 top-secret SVR cables and scores of classified Russian intelligence reports. He wrote an estimated 400 papers for the CIA, the FBI, the State Department and the White House.  (photo: Chip East/Reuters)

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