KGB station chief Ivan Stenin (right) and his successor, Geronty Lazovik, in Canberra in 1971.
A KGB officer ran two Australian federal parliamentarians as Soviet agents in the 1970s, according to a confidential account of ASIO counter-espionage operations during the Cold War.
ASIO also tried to persuade a Russian military intelligence officer to defect by offering him treatment in the US for his stomach cancer.
In an unusually candid document obtained by Fairfax Media, a former senior ASIO officer lists known Soviet intelligence officers in Australia and reveals numerous details of ASIO’s counter-espionage efforts. Much of the information remains classified.
The account by the former counter-espionage specialist confirms that Soviet intelligence was very active in Australia throughout the Cold War and that ASIO’s counter-espionage efforts had only limited success.
The document reveals ASIO’s bid in the 1970s to induce a senior military intelligence officer, Yuriy Ivanovich Stepanenko, to defect.
ASIO offered the Russian, who had stomach cancer, ”the best facilities in the world” at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore ”if he wanted to jump”.
According to the former ASIO officer, the Russian was “tempted but didn’t live much longer”.
The document also details how ASIO’s bugging operations revealed in the late 1960s and early 1970s that KGB officer Vladimir Aleksandrovich Aleksyev was “running two Australian politicians as agents, using tradecraft of a fairly high order”.
Aleksyev was followed by Vladimir Yevgenyevich Tulayev, “a hard-eyed, well-dressed thug” who, according to declassified ASIO documents, was also “aggressively involved in intelligence operations in Australia”.
Geronty Lazovik, another “definite agent runner”, was much more urbane and developed a wide range of contacts across Federal Parliament by targeting Labor politicians, staffers and lobbyists. However, ASIO director-general Peter Barbour delayed recommending that Tulayev and Lazovik be expelled before the 1972 federal election for fear of triggering political controversy.
Declassified documents show that after the election the new Labor prime minister, Gough Whitlam, was concerned about ASIO’s investigations causing diplomatic embarrassment. Neither KGB officer was expelled and the government suspended ASIO’s phone taps on the Soviet embassy.
Lazovik was reportedly later awarded a medal for his work in Australia. The award was for “allegedly recruiting a top agent in ASIO, Defence or [the Department of Foreign Affairs]”, according to the former ASIO officer.
The document also sheds light on the 1983 Combe-Ivanov affair in which the Hawke Labor government blackballed former Labor national secretary and political lobbyist David Combe because of his involvement with KGB officer Valery Ivanov, who was expelled from Australia.
The former ASIO officer says that Ivanov recruited a cipher clerk in the Indonesian embassy and that ASIO approached the Indonesians to agree to “a joint operation running the cipher clerk back against Ivanov”. However, the proposed double-agent operation had to aborted because of Ivanov’s expulsion.
“The farewell party for Ivanov was bugged and revealing. He had been roundly castigated by [fellow KGB officer] Koshlyakov for going too far, too soon, and wasn’t very happy at that,” the former ASIO officer says.
October 14, 2013
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