Cherepanov, Aleksandr Nikolaevich

(1915–1964)
   In late November 1963, Aleksandr Cherepanov, a disgruntled KGB officer, persuaded American tourists to carry sensitive documents about KGB operations against the American embassy to the Central Intelligence Agency chief of station (COS) in Moscow. When the chargé d’affaires was informed of the incident, he ordered the COS to hand over the documents so they could be returned to the Soviet Foreign Ministry: the U.S. State Department would not traffic in stolen material. Despite the COS’s vehement protests, he was granted only one hour to copy the documents.
   The documents were soon handed over to the Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the KGB predictably began hunting their sender. It did not take long to identify him. Aleksandr Cherepanov, a 20-year veteran of the security service, had fought in the partisan war against the Nazis. Assigned to the First (American) Department of the Second (Counterintelligence) Chief Directorate, he had become disillusioned with his jobs and sought to volunteer to the Americans. Cherepanov, realizing that something was wrong, sought to escape. After an intense month-long manhunt, he was captured near the Turkish border. He was tried and shot shortly thereafter.
   The Cherepanov affair illustrated how little Americans understood the Soviet Union, even in 1963. In order to curry favor with the Soviets, secret documents were to be handed back and a person’s life was to be endangered. The documents provided by Cherepanov provided insights into how the KGB conducted operations against the American embassy, including the use of a tracking chemical called metka. The hunt for Cherepanov and his subsequent execution showed how deadly serious the KGB played the game.

Historical dictionary of Russian and Soviet Intelligence. . 2014.

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