The Timeline: Russian spies

Anthony Blunt, 1940s

Anthony Blunt, the angular art historian and second cousin once removed of the Queen Mother, was exposed as the "Fourth Man" in the Cambridge Spy Ring by Margaret Thatcher in 1979. The former Surveyor of the Queen's Pictures had, in 1964, and after the defection of his former lover Guy Burgess, confessed to passing secrets to the Soviets during the 1940s. He was granted immunity from prosecution and his career flourished. In contrast to other Russian agents exposed at the time, Blunt's life was little changed by his confession; he remained on friendly terms with the Queen Mother, who was aware of his treachery.

Melita Norwood, 1950s

The "spy behind the privet hedge", Melita Norwood, who spent the latter years of her life buying copies of The Morning Star and pushing them through the letter boxes of her neighbours in Bexleyheath, passed her formative years passing secrets across park benches to Soviet agents. A secretary at the British Non-Ferrous Metals Research Association, she had access to high level nuclear secrets which she faithfully passed to her Russian handlers. Exposed in 1999 and besieged by reporters, Norwood, then 87, said she did not regard herself "as a spy, but it is for others to decide". The Attorney General decided she was, but decided not to prosecute the grandmother of two.

John Symonds, 1970s

John Symonds, was unmasked as the "Romeo" agent par excellence in 1999, when the BBC gained access to previously classified KGB records. Active throughout the 1970s, he seduced the wives of various officials in the West German government and passed the secrets they spilt on the pillow to the KGB. Despite attempting to confess in 1985 and 1987, he was dismissed as a fantasist, the authorities perhaps thinking it unlikely that the bearded stout drinker was ever a "Romeo" for anyone.

Aldrich Ames, 1980s

Ames, an American CIA counter-intelligence officer, was convicted of spying for the Russians in 1994. His career as a Russian agent began after a day's work at CIA headquarters when, somewhat improbably, he walked into the Russian embassy in Washington and simply offered his services. Despite having a fleet of Jaguar cars, a wardrobe of bespoke suits and a house beyond the means of a normal CIA agent, it took the CIA nine years to decide something was amiss. He is serving a life sentence without parole.

Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko, 2010

The arrest of the latest "deep-cover" Russian agents in the US will prove a further boon to writers of hackneyed spy fiction. Apparently eschewing the modern intelligence gathering techniques seen in the latest James Bond films, the pair would meet their handlers on park benches with the exchange of information preceded with: "Didn't we meet in California last summer?" "No, I think it was the Hamptons". The FBI have yet to confirm whether they wore trilby hats and carnations in their button holes.

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