Russian services conducted a failed operation in 2020, the aim of which was to murder a former Russian agent. A decade earlier, Alexander Poteyev had leaked information to the Americans about the activities of Russian spies in the United States, the New York Times wrote. The action was supposed to be carried out on US territory, and its disclosure led to a diplomatic shock between Washington and Moscow, the daily added.
The attempted assassination was revealed in the UK edition of the book “Spies: The Epic Intelligence War Between East and West” by Calder Walton, a national security researcher and intelligence researcher at Harvard University. The story described by the author was verified and confirmed by the “New York Times”, which presented the consequences of this event, including retaliatory measures taken by Washington and Moscow.
Former spy targeted by the Kremlin
The target of the Russians was Aleksandr Poteyev, a former high-ranking Russian intelligence officer. The man leaked information to the Americans that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) used in its investigation into the Russian spy network in 2010. The investigation led to the arrest of 11 spies who were living undercover in cities on the east coast of the United States. The task of the officers of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, leading a seemingly normal life under false names, was to collect intelligence information and recruit more agents.
The action of the American services coincided with the period when the administration of President Barack Obama sought to improve relations with the Kremlin. An agreement was reached to ease tensions: ten of the 11 spies arrested were handed over Russia. In return, Moscow released four Russian prisoners, including Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in the GRU military intelligence who was convicted in Russia in 2006 for passing secret information to the British. In 2018, in Salisbury, UK, Skripal and his daughter were the victims of an attempted poisoning with the nerve agent novichok.
In his book, Prince Walton referred to a Russian official assuring him that the killer would “almost certainly hunt” Poteyev. Based on conversations with two U.S. intelligence officials, Walton estimated the failed operation was a precursor to “modern Mercader,” the New York Times reported. This is a reference to Ramon Mercader, the Russian agent who killed in 1940 Mexico with the help of an ice axe Lion Trotsky.
The American daily noted that “the Russians have long used assassins to silence their enemies.” Alone Vladimir Putina former KGB agent, made no secret of his “deep contempt for deserters among intelligence officers, especially those who chose to help the West.”
The attempted assassination of Skripal by Russian agents was a signal that the Russians were escalating their tactics and heightened fears that Moscow would not hesitate to do the same on the other side of the Atlantic, the New York Times reported. The Salisbury incident, the newspaper added, was a wake-up call to the CIA that former Russian spies who had taken refuge in the United States could soon be targeted. Like Alexander Poteyev.
After the operation to arrest Russian “illegals” in the US, Putin declared his intention to punish Poteyev severely. Before being detained in his country, the Russian managed to escape to the United States, where he was included in the CIA’s protection program for former spies. Nevertheless, in 2011, a Moscow court sentenced Poteyev in absentia to several dozen years in prison.
Five years later, the Russian media reported the death of the former agent, when in reality Potev lived in the Miami area, obtained a fishing license and registered as a Republican voter – all under his real name, explained the “NYT”. According to experts, killing the spy in the media was supposed to induce him to reveal himself to the Russian services.
“Perhaps we could help each other”
In 2019, the Russians launched a complicated operation to find Poteyev. For this, they used the Mexican scientist Hector Alejandro Cabrera Fuentes. The man studied microbiology in Kazan, Russia, and then received his PhD at the University of Giessen in Germany.
The Russians were to force Fuentes to cooperate by using his Russian wife and daughters. Court documents quoted by “NYT” show that the scientist’s partner was not allowed to leave Russia in 2019 when she intended to return to Germany, where she lived. Fuentes was contacted by a Russian official requesting an interview. During the meeting, the Russian was to recall the situation of the researcher’s wife and suggest that “perhaps we could help each other”.
A few months later, Fuentes was ordered to observe Poteyev’s house. The next task of the scientist – wrote the journal – was to provide an accurate description of the vehicle that the former spy is driving. A Russian contact advised Fuentes not to take pictures, presumably to eliminate possible evidence.
Despite the instructions, Fuentes made a mistake. Trying to get into the complex where the former spy lived, the scientist attracted the attention of security with his behavior and was detained. While he was answering questions from security guards, his partner stepped aside to photograph Poteyev’s license plate, which was captured by surveillance cameras.
Two days later, Fuentes attempted to leave the US for Mexico. At the airport, however, he was stopped by US border guards who discovered photos of the plates on his phone. The scientist was arrested and then revealed details of his assignment to American investigators.
Washington’s reaction, Moscow’s response
Russian activities, including the plot against Poteyev, met with a strong reaction from the American government. In April 2021 The US imposed sanctions and expelled ten Russian diplomatsincluding the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service station in Washington
“The United States cannot allow another country to interfere with US elections with impunity,” the US president said at the time Joe Biden. “If Russia continues to interfere with American democracy, the United States is prepared to respond,” he said. The New York Times noted that the American leader did not mention the plot against the former spy at the time.
A day later, the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov announced the expulsion of ten American diplomats, including the head of the CIA station in Moscow. In addition, the Kremlin imposed sanctions on eight current and former US government officials.
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