MOSCOW (AP) — George Blake, a former British intelligence officer who worked as a double agent for the Soviet Union and passed some of the most coveted Western secrets to Moscow, has died in Russia. He was 98.
Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, known as SVR, announced his death on Saturday in a statement, which didn’t give any details. Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences, hailing Blake as a “brilliant professional” and a man of “remarkable courage”.
As a double agent, Blake exposed a Western plan to eavesdrop on Soviet communications from an underground tunnel into East Berlin. He also unmasked scores of British agents in Soviet bloc countries in Eastern Europe, some of whom were executed. Blake has lived in Russia since his daring escape from a British prison in 1966 and was given the rank of Russian intelligence colonel.
Britain considered Blake to be a traitor, but the man himself never agreed with that assessment and said that he had never actually “felt” British.
“To betray, you first have to belong. I never belonged,” he said.
The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office declined to comment.
Born in the Netherlands, Blake joined British intelligence during World War II. He was posted to Korea when the war erupted in 1950 and was detained by the communist north. He said he volunteered to work for the Soviet Union after witnessing the relentless United States (US) bombing of North Korea.