Lawyers stop spy naming names

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BRITISH politicians, trade union leaders and academics fearing exposure as former KGB "agents of influence" can breathe easier this morning after Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky said yesterday that his forthcoming autobiography would not name any living person.

Mr Gordievsky said he included the names of up to two dozen British contacts cultivated by KGB agents in the early Eighties in his book Next Stop Execution "to make it [the book] lively and interesting", but lawyers for his publisher, MacMillan, said he would not be able to publish names or any details which might lead to libel suits against him.

A well-placed journalistic source said he had seen a list of a dozen names but "none of them were stunning". He was told by Mr Gordievsky of a "red hot" name not included in the list.

William Armstrong, for the publisher, said the names in the manuscript were well known rather than illustrious. "I'm not saying every taxi driver would have heard of them, but if you were at a dinner party in Islington, everyone at the table would have heard of them."

Mr Gordievsky refused to reveal the identities of any of the dead, prominent figures in the book, saying: "It's a literary secret".

"The manuscript contains a list of names like, for example, an MP called, Mr Johnson, speaking hypothetically. The KGB would telegram me [Gordievsky] saying: `We happen to know this Mr Johnson is in some difficulty that we can help with. We would like tomake contact with Mr Johnson.'

"Probably it is true that there are between one and two dozen MPs, trade union leaders, people from different areas. Some of them are KGB contacts. Very few were KGB spies," he said.

Mr Gordievsky was acting station chief of the KGB's London office when he defected in 1985. He co-ordinated Soviet attempts to gain access to British military and technological secrets through "agents of access".

But at the same time, for the previous 11 years, he had been one of the British security services' most valued double agents.

Yesterday he stressed that the KGB's intelligence efforts in the Seventies and Eighties should not be exaggerated.

"The KGB in Britain was very weakened after 1971 when many were expelled. What I'm going to say [in the book] is the KGB was very timid, very cautious in making approaches after that."

Mr Gordievsky said he wasnow considering changes after legal advice three weeks ago suggested he take out names and details which would lead to identification.