Bystroletov, Dmitry Aleksandrovich

   One of the most successful Soviet illegals, Bystroletov operated in Western Europe for more than a decade, recruiting agents in Germany, France, Italy, and Great Britain under a false flag. He operated at various times as a Czech, Greek, and British citizen; his British passport identified him as Lord Robert Greenville. Among his greatest successes was the running of agents in the German and French military and the British Foreign Office, which had access to their countries’ diplomatic ciphers. For several years, Bystroletov ran Ernest Oldham, a British code clerk, who provided Moscow with British diplomatic ciphers. Bystroletov, a very handsome man, also seduced a French code clerk in Prague and obtained copies of French diplomatic codes.
   Bystroletov, like many of the “great illegals,” fell victim to Moscow’s paranoia in the late 1930s. In 1937 he was recalled to Moscow and arrested as a German spy. He was tortured into making a false confession, convicted, and sentenced to a forced labor camp. Bystroletov survived the purges, but several members of his family were executed or committed suicide. In 1954 he was released, rehabilitated, and allowed to write a classified account of his activity as an illegal.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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