Moscow farewell to agent Kroger

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The Independent Online
THE SOVIET spy Helen Kroger, who passed British naval secrets to the KGB in the 1950s, has died in Moscow at the age of 79.

Russian intelligence officials yesterday confirmed that she died at the end of December and said she was buried in the Novokuntsevskoye cemetery in a simple funeral ceremony attended by her husband and partner-in-espionage, Peter, who is 82.

The Krogers, Jewish-Americans whose real names were Morris and Lona Cohen, were originally involved in the Rosenberg spy ring which was responsible for stealing atomic bomb secrets from the United States in the early 1950s. The ring-leaders, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, were executed in the electric chair in 1953 but the Krogers managed to escape to Britain, where they set up home in the London suburb of Ruislip and opened an antiquarian bookshop.

They continued to work for the KGB, now taking their orders from Konon Molody, a Russian who used the alias Gordon Lonsdale. Posing as a Canadian, he had come to Britain ostensibly to study Chinese at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies but had plenty of time for spying because he was already fluent in the language.

In his book KGB - The Inside Story, the Soviet defector Oleg Gordievsky says Molody shared the KGB's sexist and anti-Semitic attitudes, which meant women and Jews were rarely promoted to top operational jobs, but the spy chief was happy to use the Krogers as a channel for secrets being leaked by two agents, Harry Houghton and Ethel Gee, inside the Underwater Weapons Establishment at Portland in Dorset.

Molody's ring was smashed in 1961. When the Special Branch entered the Krogers' house, they found radio transmitters, cash and forged passports hidden in a cavity under the kitchen floor. Molody was sentenced to 25 years in prison, the Krogers to 20, and Houghton and Gee to 15 each.

Molody was freed almost immediately in a spy exchange and returned to Russia, where he died after a bout of heavy drinking at a picnic in 1970. The Krogers had to wait until 1969 to be swapped for a businessman, Gerald Brooke, held on spying charges in Moscow.

Obituary, page 27

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