Yurchenko, Vitaliy Sergeevich
- (1936– )One of the strangest stories of the Cold War was the defection and then redefection of KGB officer Vitaliy Yurchenko. Yurchenko, who had served as the KGB security officer in Washington for several years in the 1970s, became disillusioned with the KGB after years of apparently successful service. On 1 August 1985, Yurchenko defected to the United States. His story was widely covered in the media and heralded as a major U.S. intelligence success. Yurchenko was debriefed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and he identified Edward Lee Howard, a recently dismissed CIA employee, and Ronald Pelton as Soviet agents. Then, only weeks after coming to Washington, he marched out of a French restaurant in Georgetown and into the Soviet embassy. He returned to Moscow to tell a story of drugging and kidnapping, and a thrilling escape from the CIA. He was subsequently decorated by the KGB and retired in 1991.The KGB chose to “believe” Yurchenko’s story, apparently to indicate to other defectors that they could return to the Soviet Union after defecting to the West without fear of punishment. Some observers of the contest between the KGB and CIA saw Yurchenko as a false defector sent to confuse the West. A more likely explanation is that it was he rather than the KGB who was confused.
Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. Robert W. Pringle. 2014.