'Contract out' on agent who betrayed Chapman

Russia has identified the double agent who betrayed its US spy ring over the summer and has sent a contract killer to assassinate him, according to a newspaper report published yesterday.

Ten spies, including Anna Chapman, were rounded up by the FBI in July and sent back to Moscow in exchange for four Russians imprisoned for spying for the West. At the time, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said the 10 had been betrayed, and that he knew the name of the traitor.

That name has stayed secret, until yesterday. The Russian newspaper Kommersant identified a Colonel Shcherbakov, an employee of the SVR foreign intelligence service, who headed the department responsible for handling sleeper agents in the US, as the double agent. The paper's sources said that Colonel Shcherbakov had been working for the Americans for some time, and fled to the US shortly before the arrests were made. If true, it would make him one of the most senior defectors since the end of the Cold War.

The paper also quoted a Kremlin official who insinuated that a hit squad had been dispatched to the US to kill Colonel Shcherbakov. "Don't doubt that a Mercader has already been sent after him," said the source, referring to Ramón Mercader, a Soviet agent who killed Leon Trotsky with an ice pick in Mexico in 1940. "The fate of such a person is unenviable... living every day in fear of retribution."

Kommersant said that Russia's intelligence community was still in shock over the summer's events, and that a wide-ranging investigation was under way inside the SVR as to how obvious warning signals about Colonel Shcherbakov, including the fact that his daughter lived in the US, had been overlooked.

Since the July scandal, information about the 10 spies and the chain of events that led to their arrest has been hard to come by. The only one of the 10 who has been spotted in public is Ms Chapman, who has participated in a number of candid photoshoots and is apparently now working for a Russian bank. The fate of the other spies is unclear, although President Dmitry Medvedev is reported to have awarded them top state honours.

Yesterday's Kommersant report gave new insight into one of the 10 spies, Juan Lazaro, who posed as a Uruguayan but was actually named Mikhail Vasenkov and was born in Siberia. Mr Vasenkov first spied in South America under the cover of working as a press photographer, before moving to the US with his Peruvian wife Vicky Pelaez. She, allegedly, was not aware of his real identity.

Kommersant claims that Mr Lazaro's cover was blown when Colonel Shcherbakov entered the interrogation room with a dossier containing his real name and place of work. The paper also claims that Mr Lazaro had three ribs and a leg broken during interrogation, and returned to Russia with these injuries.

Both sides have been anxious to ensure that the fallout from the spy scandal does not derail the much trumpeted "reset" in relations between Moscow and Washington. If the Kommersant story is true, then American behaviour throughout the episode is a marked departure from standard practice during the Cold War, when such a high-level defection would have been proudly announced to the world. Instead, there have been no information leaks from Washington on how the arrests came about. The SVR has refused to comment on the truth of the report.

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition