Push and hold

Guardian to the CIA agent

In 1960 – 1970-ies Igor Bugayov was involved in the large-scale operation of the Soviet secret services, resulting in possibility to safely hide in Kyiv a former US State Department encryption service employee, a CIA agent, who asked for political asylum in the Soviet Union.

It was an extremely important task, which was constantly under control of the First Chief Directorate (foreign intelligence) of the KGB, and the classic example of the operation within the frameworkof the so-called witness protection program. In the short term the fugitive was given the citizenship of the USSR, his name was changed, the appropriate legend was developed for him, he was insured an apartment in Kyiv and the security officer, who was fluent in English, was put on him.

Igor Ivanovych Bugayov was born on September 9, 1930 in Kyiv in the family of a serviceman. His father was often transferred from one garrison to another. His wife, son and daughter travelled together with him. The outbreak of war caught them in Vinnytzya. His father was off at the front, and the family evacuated. Subsequently, the 12-year-old Igor became, as some of his peers at that terrible time, so-called son of the regiment. Together with the military unit in which his father served, he became a witness of Stalingrad and Korsun-Shevchenko battles, “Operation Bagration”, the liberation of the Baltic States and Poland. He met Victory Day in Königsberg.

After the war, his father was transferred to Belarus. There Igor continued his studies in the school, but finished it in the Monastyrysche village, Chernihiv region, where his father after demobilization was sent to the machine and tractor station as a political officer. Then he became a student of the Faculty of International Relations of the Kyiv State University. The brighter student was noticed by the representatives of the State Security and he was offered a job in the Ministry of State Security of the USSR. After special training in Novosybirsk he returned to Kyiv and was engaged in operational work in the counterintelligence department. Subsequently, taking into account his fluent English, Igor Bugayov was transferred to the intelligence unit.

In the summer of 1960, he received a new unexpected assignment. At the time he worked in the KGB department under the Council of Ministers of the Ukrainian SSR in Kyiv Region (Oblast). He was called by the Head of the department Major-General Vyacheslav Tikhonov and said, that his candidacy had been approved in Moscow by the First Chief Directorate, and he was to arrive immediately to the hotel “Ukraine”, where the Centre representatives would explain him everything. Lieutenant Bugayov did not know that the job received that day would make serious changes in his life and work for a long time.

In the hotel room he met two members of the central apparatus of intelligence who briefly outlined him the core of the subject. In July 1960, former employee of the US State Department encryption service John Smith applied to the Soviet embassy in Finland for political asylum. Upon his arrival to Moscow and absorbing the important information received from him, the KGB decided: to keep strictly secret that he had gone over to our side in order to be able to realize all obtained materials, to ensure the safely hide for him away from the capital, and at the same time enable him to work and live a normal life, to fully feel a freeman of the Soviet society. In the course of a month by the indoor Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR signed by L.Brezhnev and M.Giorgadze he was granted Soviet citizenship and by the same indoor Resolution of the CPSU Central Committee the executive committee of the Kyiv City Council was ordered to allocate him in a separate two-room apartment.

I.Bugayov was attributed full responsibility for keeping of the foreigner’s daily life, leisure time, employment, security, and for settling any problem that might arise. Firstly, it was necessary to create such conditions for him, that he felt comfortable and saw anything wrong with the move. That included selection and arrangement of the apartment, residence registration, registration in outpatient centre, grocery shopping etc. The American did not understand either Ukrainian or Russian, hence the operative was supposed to be both translator and teacher for him. Secondly, I. Bugayov had to use all means for his encoding and counterintelligence security, and thirdly, – he had to further analyze information obtained from Smith, get more specific information and take part in the use of the foreigner in activities to response the foreign intelligence services.

A few days later, having thoroughly reviewed all case files, I. Bugayov finally realized how important was the person he had to take care of. John Smith was born in Massachusetts in 1926. During the Second World War, he volunteered for the U.S. Navy, graduated from the radio school, worked for the Cryptologic (Cipher) Bureau of the Department of the Navy. At the end of the war he studied at George Washington University for some two years, then left the school and started looking for work. The former commander of the military service, who at that time held a senior position in the encryption section of the State Department, invited him to work there. John agreed without hesitation.

For some ten years he worked as a cipher machines technician for the American embassies and military attaches in South Africa, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Ceylon, Saudi Arabia, Austria, for a time he was employed in ciphering. In India, he married an embassy co-worker – a CIA employee. Soon he began to be involved in covert operations. One day his wife told him, that in the United States the CIA for his services transferred to his special account quite a lot of money in favor of him.

Soon, however, John Smith felt, that he came under close scrutiny of his employers, as if something had changed. Obviously, the reason was his liberal views and his negative attitude to the war in Vietnam. He was transferred to another job, also there were problems in the family which led to divorce. Ultimately, he resigned from the career service. For a long time, he was not able or willing to get a job anywhere, continually suspected of being followed, deep inside bearing malice against the former colleagues, he did a lot of travelling, thinking about the past and future life. Those searches and reflections led him to Helsinki to the Soviet Embassy with a request for political asylum. In three weeks time he received a passport of a citizen of the USSR.

According to the new passport, John was Ian Kazymirovich, allegedly Czech by origin, who for some time had been living in the English-speaking countries. I. Bugayov even was to visit Prague with him to show the city, all local places of interest, so that if necessary, John could tell something as his cover story had it. In addition, the Soviet intelligence officers were constantly working on keeping the other cover story, which told that he had been travelling through Europe, stopping for a long time in the different countries. This was done for his former overseas colleagues. For evidence of that, it was necessary to travel with him to Berlin, Budapest, and other cities, where Smith visited American embassies and sent home postcards. That lasted for several years. All this time the Soviet side managed to use the information provided by D. Smith on ciphers and encryption machines, as well as on the CIA staff officers and agents in some foreign countries.

John was working at the Kyiv Institute of Foreign Languages and preparing a brochure entitled “I was a CIA agent in India”. The biographical story with real examples from his life was issued in India and was on everyone’s lips. Of course, it was a planned KGB action directed against the main enemy, and it was just one in a series of similar large-scale actions. KGB Chairman Yuri Andropov, after defection of KGB officer Oleg Lalin in England, instructed to develop a program of poaching employees of foreign intelligence services to ensure that they not only provided sensitive information, but also moved for permanent residence in the Soviet Union. The head of security was even ready to allocate fugitives the apartments, cottages, large sums of money to fall back upon high-profile outreach activities with their participation.

The John Smith’s story fell into this plan to the best advantage, and he had been used to the full. At the same time in India was issued a brochure, the excerpts from which were published in “Literaturnaya Gazeta” (Literary Newspaper, Russian: Литературнаягазета). The articles and interviews with John were published in “Izvestia” (Russian: Известия) and “Pravda” (Russian: Правда) newspapers. He has performed twice at the radio station “Peace and Progress” to appeal to the American people and American soldiers who fought in Vietnam, he spoke in support of the national liberation movements. He sincerely believed, that he had not betrayed his homeland, on the contrary, contributed to the consolidation of peace on Earth.

Thus, Igor Bugayov has got more work for the American’s counterintelligence security. The foreign correspondents sought to interview Smith to find out his location and activities. It was even planned, that he would take part in a press conference. But later that idea was abandoned.

For so many years, Igor Bugayov not only took care of John Smith, but was engaged in other operational work, for which no one exonerated him from responsibility. On the eve of President Nixon’s arrival to Kyiv Bugayov proposed to draw the foreigner into active work for studying and analysis of intelligence regarding prepared for a visit documents of the US State Department’s advance team. Ultimately, D. Smith has helped considerably. Important information on the American delegation’s plans and intentions, possible compromises, a willingness to make specific concessions has been obtained. Those materials emphasized the weaknesses of the Soviet side, and the issues that could be pressed during the talks. Those were all very valuable. The leaders of the KGB of the Ukrainian SSR had urgently prepared and sent to Moscow the relevant document, which immediately went to the table of CPSU General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Both John Smith and his Kyiv supervisor were rewarded valuable gifts for good performance.

In the closing stages of his life, John was seriously ill. In 1977 he died of lung cancer. The leaders of the KGB decided to bury him under his real name in Kyiv. They sent a telegram to his close relatives to the United States, but no one came to the funeral.

Igor Bugayov left service in 1989 as colonel. Some time he dabbled in journalism, writing articles from the history of intelligence services, and worked in one of the specialized publishing houses, where he had been published under pseudonyms.

He lived up to his 80th birthday and died on March 27, 2011. In his personal archive there were many handwritten and unpublished materials, as well as John Smith’s brochure, his photographs, yellowed newspaper clippings of interviews with the American in the Soviet press. Almost half of the Igor Bugayov’s years of service at the KGB came to an interesting, complex, sometimes cumbersome, but very important work with this person. Actually, the American for some 17 years has been an integral part of his life, something someone between family member, friend and colleague. From today’s perspective this case is seen from a slightly different angle of view. With Cold War tensions long past, a major confrontation between the security services was gradually translated into provisions for civilized competition and partnerships on many issues. But many of the then existing developments remain relevant until now.


Oleksandr Skrypnyk,

With Smіth at Red Square (Moscow, May 1967)

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