MOSCOW – Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin believed as early as 1936 that Richard Sorge, a Soviet spy based in Japan, was a double agent for Nazi Germany and warned that he was not to be trusted, according to an ex-KGB official.
Sergei Kondrashev, 77, a former top official of the KGB, the Soviet secret police and intelligence agency, said recently that Stalin’s suspicions caused him to ignore a report from Sorge, a German national, warning of Germany’s plan to invade the Soviet Union in June 1941.
Kondrashev was the author of a 1964 KGB report that exonerated Sorge and rehabilitated his reputation as a spy for the Soviet Union.
Stalin, upon receiving Sorge’s report from a Red Army intelligence unit with which the spy was affiliated, is said to have written on the report, “I ask you not to send me any more German disinformation.”
According to the former KGB official, there were strong suspicions within Sorge’s Soviet intelligence unit that the German was working for his home country.
The suspicions were reflected in the action taken against suspected double agents during Stalin’s Great Purge beginning in 1935.
Kondrashev also said he believes the Red Army’s order to a Soviet military officer stationed in Tokyo to be in contact with Sorge, ignoring the danger to the latter’s safety, led to his arrest by the Japanese in October 1941.
The commanding officer of the intelligence unit that sent Sorge to Japan in 1933 — a general identified as Berzin — testified in 1938 that the unit had a document indicating that Sorge was spying for Germany.
Also, the head of espionage operations in Japan, known as “Sirotkin,” is on record as saying after he was arrested during the purges that they had “sold Sorge to the Japanese,” further giving credence to Stalin’s double-agent theory.
Ikuhiko Hata, a professor at Tokyo’s Nihon University who specializes in the Sorge affair, said that while Stalin’s distrust of Sorge was well-established, he did not know it dated back as early as 1936.
Kondrashev’s findings show that the relationship between Sorge, who was executed by Japan, and Moscow was a rocky one, and his assertions will help shed light on the unresolved aspects, he added.
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