(RightWing.org) – A new book alleges that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the murder of one of his own spies on US soil. Allegedly the intelligence officer had defected, and in revenge, Putin sent a hit squad to kill him. The attempt failed — but it had serious consequences for US-Russia relations.
A Flawed Russian Hero
On paper, Aleksandr Poteyev was the perfect Russian intelligence officer. A Red Army veteran, he was recruited by the KGB in the late 1970s and served in its elite Zenit special forces unit. He took part in the 1979 Russian invasion of Afghanistan as part of the Spetsnaz team that assassinated President Hafizullah Amin; for that, he was awarded the Order of the Red Banner, the Soviet equivalent of the US Distinguished Service Cross. Then, in the early 1980s, Poteyev graduated from the KGB’s foreign intelligence school and moved from special forces to spying. In 2000 he was promoted to Deputy Director of Line S — the foreign intelligence branch — in the KGB’s successor, the SVR.
What Poteyev’s bosses didn’t know was that, in 1999, he’d started working as an agent for the CIA. Eventually, they started to suspect someone in the agency was, though, and a hunt began. Knowing his colleagues were searching for a high-level leak, Poteyev and his family escaped from Russia and settled in Miami.
The Deadly Plot
In 2019, Putin decided it was time to get his revenge. The SVR recruited a Mexican national, Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes, and sent him to Florida to rent a property. In February 2020, Fuentes met SVR officers in Moscow, where he was given details about Poteyev’s car and told to locate it. He did — but when he tried to leave the country on February 16, customs agents found a photo of Poteyev’s license plate on his phone and arrested him. In February 2020, Fuentes was sentenced to four years in prison for acting as a foreign agent.
The story of the failed assassination emerged in a new book by Harvard national security expert Calder Walton. The book, “Spies: The Epic Intelligence War Between East and West,” will be published on June 29 — and it describes how the plot was ordered in Moscow, the agent recruited, and the murder prevented by an observant customs officer.
Meanwhile, enemies of Putin’s brutal regime can’t sleep easy anywhere on the planet. The KGB and its successor have used assassination before, most notoriously in two attacks in the UK that used weapons of mass destruction. In 2006, former Russian security officer Alexander Litvinenko was murdered in London with a cup of tea spiked with lethal, radioactive polonium-210. In 2018, an SVR team attacked former GRU (military intelligence) officer Sergei Skripal with a Novichok nerve agent at his home in Salisbury; Skripal and his daughter were poisoned but survived. Up to now, though, most people have assumed Putin wouldn’t dare send his assassins to kill anyone in the US. It seems we were too optimistic.
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