At his 90, Vasyl Omelyanovych is cheerful, although the front-line wound in the thigh is increasingly making itself felt, completely restricting movements. “Without a walking stick, and sometimes without a wheelchair, I’m not a walker”, – he jokes. The veteran is talkative, has a tenacious memory for events and names of half a century ago, surprising with details. But when it comes to intelligence operations, in conducting which Myakushko was involved, you see at once his years old habit of not saying too much, not revealing any operational secrets and the eternal for the people of his profession principle of “do no harm”. But then, this is not surprising: after all, for almost 50 years he had worked in the KGB, of which more than 40 – in the Foreign Intelligence Service.
”The KGB’s Super-Agent in France Georges Paques Flatly Refused to Take Monetary Reward”
- Which period in your professional career is the most interesting and memorable?
- My work in France – unhesitatingly answers Vasyl Myakushko. – In the Paris residentura of the Soviet Foreign Intelligence Service I had worked under diplomatic cover and actually without vacation for two terms, from 1954 to 1960. I was sent there after the graduation from the 101th (Intelligence) KGB USSR School. Before my leaving, I had a meeting with the Chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Alexandr Panyushkin who once again drew attention to the main task that I had to fulfill abroad, which was - to collect military-political intelligence on the bloc of NATO. Back then, NATO’s Headquarters were in France. I remember his words: “Where you are going to work, is the epicenter of the “Cold War”, plans are developed of military-strategic confrontation against the Soviet Union and the entire socialist camp. On your work depends, that this war does not turn into a real one”.
The severity of the situation, constant tension, tough counterintelligence regime, frantic pace – all this had been for all six years of work, and therefore I could not have vacations. We were demanded that the information about NATO’s plans appeared on Khrushchev’s desk sooner than at the US President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s. And we often succeeded.
- How did you?
- First of all, due to the agents, who operated in the environment of objects of interest of the Soviet Intelligence Service, and directly in the NATO’s Headquarters. One of these KGB’s super agents in France as he was referred to in the western press, was Georges Paques. Much has been written about this already, so I may tell something.
Paques held important positions in many government offices, was quite a successful official, awarded the Order of the Legion of Honor. At the time of my meetings with him, he worked in the French Ministry of Defence, and later – in the Secretariat of the NATO’s Headquarters. On a permanent basis in touch with him was only the specially appointed for this employee of our residentura, and it was strictly forbidden to “light up” the agent in front of other intelligence agents. He was strongly protected from being disclosed. But it so happened that in the absence of his curator, who was either on vacation, or out of town, Paques asked for an urgent meeting. The resident sent me, as I had previously participated in securing these meetings and knew Paques visually, and he knew me.
Several meetings that I had with him, left a very good impression of this man in my memories. In our conversations he in every way showed that he was and would always remain a patriot of his country. Passing over to the Soviet Intelligence Service the materials that revealed NATO’s military-strategic potential and plans, he wanted to keep the balance of two opposing systems and to prevent a new world war that would destroy France too.
- Was he paid money for the information?
- As far as I know, he categorically refused to take any monetary remuneration.
- Do you know about his further fate?
- It was very dramatic. After the employee of the KGB Anatoly Golitsyn’s betrayal, the French Counter-Intelligence received information that in front of them in government circles had been working a very important Soviet agent. The information provided was enough to disclose Georges Paques. He was arrested in 1964 and sentenced to life imprisonment, which was soon replaced with 20 years in prison. After numerous appeals and complaints, in which the leadership of the Soviet Intelligence Service had a hand, the French President Georges Pompidou signed a decree to release him.
”For the Valuable Information That Influenced the International Talks in Geneva, we Were Given the Watches “Polyot”
- Vasyl Omelyanovych, please, admit: about the speed of information’s turning up on Khrushchev’s desk you did exaggerate? The received documents needed to be transported through diplomatic mail across the border, translated, processed, reported on a chain. At that time’s bureaucracy …
- No, I did not. - parries Vasyl Myakushko. – Here is an example. True, the report is not connected with Khrushchev but with the Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov. Once on the eve of a major high-level meetings in Geneva, our residentura got a piece of valuable information from NATO’s Headquarters, which could significantly affect the negotiation process. The Resident called me and another officer involved in the collection of that intelligence, and set the task to urgently go to Switzerland. The documents were immediately copied on microfilm and placed in a special container in which it in case of unforeseen circumstances would be dissolved by acid. I was to drive because they knew I could at the maximum speed without too many problems drive up to a thousand kilometers in one go.
In Geneva, we arrived late in the evening and spent the whole night in the residentura developing the film, translating the documents and making a generalizing reference. Time was running out, so not everything was done perfectly, translated into Russian, some materials were simply photocopied on a quarter of a standard sheet of paper. The next morning with red eyes from lack of sleep, the Geneva Resident and we went to report to the Chief of the Soviet KGB Ivan Serov who arrived with the delegation. Having looked at everything carefully, he in a raised voice said that in that form it all could not be reported to Molotov. Our nerves snapped there and we uttered in the same tone too much in our excuse, arguing that the important thing was not the form but the content. He swore in response, put us out the door, shouting after us: “Hell of a thing is being done here!”
Frustrated, we went to sleep off. After some time, we were awakened by the Resident, who invited us to his office and said, “You’re lucky that the information was so important, or you’d have got your shoulder straps blown off. Thanks to it, they managed to adjust the position of the Soviet Union in the negotiations and look very dignified. Serov asked to say thanks from Molotov and to reward with valuable prizes”. At this, he took out from the safe two boxes with watches and gave them to us.
- At least the watches were Swiss ones, weren’t they?
- No, they were Soviet ones. “Polyot” or “Slava”, I can’t remember now.
- And which award for your work in the Intelligence Service do you consider the most valuable one? You have six orders and a lot of medals, right?
- Among them there are orders that I have received for the war and for my work in the Intelligence, and being already in retirement. But absolutely special for me is the sign “Honorary Employee of the State Security”, which I was awarded for the recruitment of a valuable source in France. Then I was with all the insights specially invited to Moscow to report to the Chief of the USSR KGB Alexandr Shelepin. Having asked me in detail and studied the materials, he ordered the Chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Alexandr Sakharov to nominate me to the government award. Already in the corridor Sakharov asked what medals I already had, and then said: “At the moment Khrushchev has to sign a whole bunch of award documents for our employees. But for some unknown reason he is lingering. Lets better encourage you with “Honorary Employee of the State Security”. It has recently been adopted. You will be in the first hundred of the awarded”. At that moment I was a bit older than thirty. I guess I was the only one at the time, who got the highest departmental award at this age, and the rank of Captain.
”Based on the Information Collected by the Intelligence Service, Design Bureaus, Shops, and Sometimes Plants Were Created”.
-Vasyl Omelyanovych, Thierry Wolton in his book “KGB in France”, among the employees of the Soviet Intelligence Service, unmasked and ordered out of the country, mentions your name. How did this happen?
- Let’s just say my being on the list is not quite correct, because there was no knocking out as such, – says Vasyl Myakushko. – And here’s what happened. One of the “sources”, with whom I worked, for some reason, turned to the Americans, admitted that he cooperated with Soviet intelligence, and mentioned my name. Americans after some time passed him over to the French. At the same time our residentura learnt about this. Immediately my wife and two sons were sent to Moscow. And intensive consultations began with the Centre concerning me. It was important to avoid the political scandal. Somewhere on the third day it was decided on my secret departure from France. Disguised as a member of the crew of “Aeroflot”’s plane, I managed without problems and passing through customs and passport control, to leave the country.
A few days later the official Paris invited the Soviet Ambassador Sergei Vinogradov, declared me persona non grata and demanded my leaving the country within 24 hours. To this the Ambassador replied calmly: “This employee is no Embassy staff. He had already left for home”. The French were shocked. They were a hundred percent sure that I had not crossed the border. And we were able to avoid the political scandal.
- How after that did you become the Chief of the Intelligence Directorate in Kyiv?
- It all happened very quickly. I did not even have a chance to take a holiday for the six years of working abroad. Taking into consideration the fact that I originate from Poltava, and the Ukrainian language is my native, I was offered to work in Ukraine, as the Deputy Chief of the 1st (Intelligence) Directorate of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR with a view to further lead the Directorate, which did happen in 1967. And since 1971, for 13 years I had been responsible for the Foreign Intelligence Service in the status of the Deputy Chief of the Republican Committee of State Security.
- What were you doing at that time?
- The Foreign Intelligence units were working on collecting economic, scientific and technological intelligence and its implementation in enterprises of the powerful defense and industrial complex of the Republic.
- Could you reveal some secrets?
- There are plenty of examples of how the materials collected by the Intelligence Service helped achieve tremendous breakthroughs in science, technology, military sphere. Based on the information collected by us, design offices, shops, and sometimes the whole plants were created.
Looking back at the past results and accomplishments, we see them very differently and evaluate them differently. For example, in France, through hides high in the mountains I used to pass over bags with lots of money and jewelry. I did not know how much was in them, who would come to collect them, and for what purposes the values were intended. I could only guess.
Now between special services are being developed and deepened partnerships, there is mutually beneficial cooperation, the exchange of information. And it is a great achievement. At that time there was nothing of the kind. And I hope to God that the past remains history.
Oleksandr Skrypnyk, specially for “Fakty”