Tell-tale spy the British want to keep in the cold

AT 9.45am on Tuesday a group of Russian and British archivists and historians will gather in room K123 at the Foreign Office in Whitehall. The agenda for the day-long seminar: the rewriting of history.

One man who will not be making any contribution to the discussion is Oleg Tsarev, a former colonel in the KGB. This is a shame, because he is one cause of the meeting.

Tsarev, now a private citizen, is a historical consultant to the Russian Intelligence Service, the KGB's successor. With the British historian John Costello he has written a new book billed as the first history of Soviet spying produced with direct access to official KGB archives.

The book, Deadly Illusions, due out this month, has sent a chill down the backs of some of the hardiest Cold War warriors.

It is the first of a series of books on Soviet espionage and the West due to be published in an exclusive deal between the Russian Intelligence Service and the US publishing company Random House.

Random House is coy about details of the deal struck with the RIS. Officially, the company has paid the Russians a 'surprisingly modest' advance fee - widely rumoured to be worth dollars 1m - and a share of the profits. The money will go towards improving the cataloguing of the RIS archives. The publishers do reveal that other titles being prepared cover the Cuban missile crisis, the 1961 Berlin crisis and KGB penetration of Britain and the US.

Costello and Tsarev's account deals with the Soviet spy chief Alexander Orlov, the mastermind behind three of the most successful espionage networks of the century. These included the notorious Cambridge spy ring in Britain, into which Orlov recruited Guy Burgess, Kim Philby, Donald Maclean and Anthony Blunt, and an identical Oxford ring which escaped detection.

Orlov fled to the United States in 1938 fearing that Stalin, the Soviet leader, was planning to kill him, and was believed by the West to be a genuine defector. The truth, according to documents in the KGB archives, was that despite being interrogated by CIA and FBI officials, the former KGB employee never revealed the existence of Soviet spy networks which operated against US and British interests during and after the Second World War - including penetration of the West's atomic bomb secrets.

In fact Orlov managed to live in America for several years without the FBI knowing he was there. The head of the FBI, J Edgar Hoover, discovered that a KGB general was living under his nose only when it was published on the front cover of Life magazine: his reaction was described as a 'mixture of incredulity, horror and wrath'.

Many of the documents described in the book as KGB archive material have been authenticated by US and British intelligence specialists, and existing declassified documents also support it. The result, according to Costello, is a unique opportunity to rewrite history. 'Access to the KGB archival records, controlled and selective though it has to be, nevertheless has now opened a new door to intelligence history, based on a wide range of primary Soviet sources.'

He described the new information as 'highly significant material which touches raw nerves' - so raw that Tsarev has been refused entry to Britain, and he will be unable to attend the Foreign Office Records Policy seminar when it meets in the Durbar Conference Room, as room K123 is better known, to discuss the question of the Soviet archives.

The Foreign Office has invited the Russians to the seminar on Tuesday 'to show them how it's done', according to Costello - control by selective release.

Tsarev's publishers allege that British diplomats have appealed to the Russians to stem the flood of secrets from their archives, and that they have urged them to cease co-operation with Tsarev and Costello. When their appeals failed, Britain made its displeasure felt through an informal approach directly to Boris Yeltsin, the Russian President.

The publishers have written to John Major urging him to intervene on Tsarev's behalf. Rupert Allason, MP and espionage writer, who knows Tsarev, appealed to the Foreign Secretary last week to grant him a visa.

Elizabeth Sich, of Random House, commented: 'It is a matter of record that Mr Tsarev was never declared persona non grata during the many years he worked in Britain as a Soviet journalist, and it would appear he is being singled out for unfair and discriminatory treatment.

'Other former members of the KGB who were asked to leave the country - including, most notably, Mikhail Lubimov - have twice been granted a visa to visit Britain.'

Tsarev was refused a visa to enter Britain in 1991, as a spokesman for the RIS, to talk about Costello's book on Rudolf Hess. He was told by the Government that a visa would not be granted to somebody who had knowingly deceived them in the past. Tsarev worked as a journalist in Britain from 1975-80 while actually working for the KGB. Tsarev points out it was the British who pioneered the idea of using the job of journalists as a cover for spies.

He is disappointed by the Government's stance and says he has no idea why this has happened. He recognises that the issue of declassifying and publishing intelligence information is a difficult one for the British.

'It is much easier for us to do this because we have cut with our past and we are writing the history in order not to make the same mistakes. I think it is much harder for the British ruling classes, because they see a continuity of policy. I think they feel the responsibility for what has been done in the past and the unpleasant events that have occurred. Maybe I am wrong. I would like to hear from them on this.'

Costello believes that the real reason Tsarev's visa has been refused (despite the fact he has been allowed to travel to the US and Germany) lies in British sensitivity to the disclosure of intelligence information. 'It is a sad irony that since the ending of the Cold War, Russia has realised what can be gained from opening up historic intelligence files and has taken the lead,' he said.

'America has responded by trying to catch up. Britain's response is to do absolutely nothing, and even try to keep America back by blocking the release of intelligence obtained by Britain and shared with the US.'

'Deadly Illusions', John Costello and Oleg Tsarev. Century pounds 18.99.

(Photographs omitted)

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary