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Subject: Rem Krassilnikov, Russian Bane of C.I.A.

Dies at 76
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Date Posted: March 24, 2003 9:47:06 EDT

Rem Krassilnikov, a legendary figure within the K.G.B. who was in charge of the investigations and arrests of the American spies betrayed by Aldrich H. Ames, Robert P. Hanssen and other moles in the final years of the cold war, died in Moscow last week. He was 76.

Mr. Krassilnikov, who had been a major general in the K.G.B., was virtually unknown outside the Soviet intelligence service but wielded broad power within it.

During the critical years of the mid- and late 1980's, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was chief of the First Department within the K.G.B.'s Second Chief Directorate, which placed him in charge of investigating and disrupting C.I.A. operations in Moscow.

C.I.A. officers eventually came to recognize the quiet, white-haired general as one of their main intelligence adversaries. Within the K.G.B., Mr. Krassilnikov earned the nickname "the professor of counterintelligence," and some American intelligence officers who went up against him saw him as the real life embodiment of "Karla," the mysterious Soviet spymaster in the novels of John le Carré.

Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of Communism in Russia, Mr. Krassilnikov remained true to his past and proud of the counterintelligence work he had performed at the K.G.B.

Born in 1927, he was the son of a senior officer in the N.K.V.D., the predecessor to the K.G.B., and was literally fixed at birth with the stamp of Lenin's dream. His parents named him Rem, an acronym for the Russian phrase meaning "world revolution." Rem Krassilnikov followed his father into Soviet intelligence and was sent to overseas postings that included Canada and Lebanon. He married a woman whose parents had named her Ninel — Lenin spelled backward.

But it was back home in Moscow where Mr. Krassilnikov made his mark as a specialist in counterintelligence. For a time, he was chief of the Second Department of the Second Chief Directorate, targeting MI-6, the British intelligence service, in Moscow. He later said in an interview that he learned much about British intelligence by spending time with two famous British spies who had defected to Moscow, Kim Philby and George Blake.

He had taken over the First Department of the Second Chief Directorate, which concentrated on American activities in Moscow, by the time that a series of American spies began to give the Soviets a treasure trove of information about C.I.A. operations in the mid-1980's.

First, in 1984, Edward Lee Howard, who had been fired by the C.I.A. just before he was to be posted to Moscow, began to provide information to the K.G.B. about spies working for the C.I.A. in Moscow. In the spring of 1985, Mr. Ames, chief of counterintelligence in the C.I.A.'s Soviet Division, then volunteered to the K.G.B. and eventually turned over a list of Russians working for the C.I.A.

In the fall of 1985, Mr. Hanssen, an F.B.I. agent, volunteered to the K.G.B. and provided information on many of the same agents betrayed by Mr. Ames. That intense period of cold-war espionage has since come to be known as "the year of the spy."

For a brief time, that sudden wealth of inside information led Mr. Krassilnikov and his K.G.B. spyhunters from triumph to triumph, as they rolled up one American spy after another throughout 1985 and 1986.

Perhaps the most important spy he captured was Adolf Tolkachev, a Soviet scientist who had provided the C.I.A. with thousands of pages of secret documents on Soviet military aircraft designs and who is credited with helping the United States Air Force design new planes that could defeat the best the Soviets had on their drawing boards. Mr. Tolkachev was arrested in early 1985 and later executed.

In virtually every case, Mr. Krassilnikov's team would arrest a Russian agent working for the C.I.A. in secret. Later, the K.G.B. would often try to ambush a C.I.A. case officer waiting to meet the spy, not realizing the agent was already in prison.

The result of the Soviet offensive was that by 1987, the C.I.A. had lost virtually all of its agents in Moscow, and the agency's ability to track Soviet intelligence had been severely damaged. Mr. Krassilnikov had scored one of the most complete victories in the annals of modern espionage.

In interviews in recent years, Mr. Krassilnikov, who by then had retired from the K.G.B., was clearly sensitive about the fact that his investigators within the Second Chief Directorate had not received the credit he believed they deserved for so successfully thwarting and halting so many American espionage operations.

He said he felt that it was unfair that historians assumed that the Russian spies had been handed to the K.G.B. on a silver platter by Mr. Ames and other moles, and he argued that the capture of so many spies required intensive investigative work.

Mr. Krassilnikov's defensiveness may have been the product of a turf war within the Soviet intelligence bureaucracy. The American moles handing over so much information were being handled by the K.G.B.'s First Chief Directorate, the elite foreign intelligence service, rather than the Second Directorate, which handled counterintelligence within the Soviet Union.

In addition to his widow, Mr. Krassilnikov is survived by his son, Sergei, and a daughter, Tatyana.

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