Thursday, August 21, 2008

Soviet Cold War spy "Zephyr" dies

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Soviet spy codenamed "Zephyr" who worked undercover with his wife in Europe and the United States for more than a quarter of a century has died aged 101, Russia's foreign intelligence agency (SVR) said on Tuesday.

The agency issued a glowing tribute to spy Mikhail Mukasei, whose death comes at a time when Russia's tense relations with the West and its conflict with Georgia are prompting many observers to draw parallels with the Cold War.

Mukasei operated with his wife Elizaveta as an undercover team in an unnamed "West European country" from the 1950s until their return to Moscow in 1977, the agency said in a statement on its Internet site

"Their active work was as illegal operatives. The geographic operations of the Mukaseis were very extensive: they performed tasks for the motherland on several continents," the SVR's tribute said.

Earlier, during World War Two, under the cover of the Soviet vice-consul in Los Angeles, Mukasei gathered "highly valued" information linked to Japan's wartime threat to the Soviet Union, the SVR said.

Mukasei received numerous Soviet decorations for his work, including the Red Banner, the Red Star and the Andropov medal and went on to train future generations of spies before writing books and teaching aids, the tribute said.

Mukasei's services were also recognised by the Soviet Union's successor state Russia, which awarded him a medal for his "outstanding contribution to ensuring the security of the Russian Federation", the SVR said.

(Reporting by Conor Sweeney, Editing by Meg Clothier)