posted on Oct, 17 2002 @ 12:58 AM
The newly revealed exploits of spies who operated in underground tunnels
Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow
Sunday October 13, 2002
The CIA dug a tunnel under the Kremlin and installed a hi-tech bugging system to eavesdrop on the Soviet Union's most senior figures, according to
the former US intelligence officer who executed the plan.
The device was put in by a US agent who had to wear a protective suit and was guided by satellite and sonar images of Moscow's underground. The
bugging formed part of audacious operations to rescue a key defector, a KGB officer with responsibility for eavesdropping, and to alert Boris Yeltsin
to the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev.
This wasn't part of the Cold War - the intrusion into the seat of Soviet power occurred in 1989, when Washington and Moscow were trying to smooth
'The stories about a five-level city beneath Moscow are true,' said Tony Mendes, a former Moscow-based CIA technical officer, now retired. 'These
are tunnels from ancient times - Ivan the Terrible did a lot of digging and torturing. But some of the tunnels were recently made.'
An agent, whom Mendes refuses to say worked for the US government, entered the tunnel system one night equipped with computer guidance systems, air
filters and maps. He negotiated the sewer and metro system to reach tunnels running under the Kremlin. One of these passed directly beneath the nerve
centre of the 16th Directorate, the KGB's electronic ears, which also dealt with state communications.
That night Mendes was in the Kremlin theatre attending a performance of the ballet Koppelia. The audience also included a US mole in the 16th
Directorate, 'Major Peter Leonov', and his wife. Two of the ushers were CIA agents in disguise.
When the Russian couple went to the toilet during the interval, they were joined by the two agents, who donned disguises to make them look like Leonov
and his wife and returned to the couple's seats. The Leonovs, now dressed as the ushers went to the service lifts.
They went to a tunnel entrance to meet the subterranean agent. Leonov then reportedly showed the agent where to plant the listening device in the
The Leonovs left the Soviet Union days later on a ferry from one of the Baltic states.
Mendes claims the eavesdropping device was instrumental in thwarting the coup in August 1991, when Gorbachev was detained at his dacha by the
military. President George Bush Senior and Prime Minister John Major called Yeltsin to urge him to stand up to the army.
'How do you think they knew about all this?' said Mendes. However, Russian moles in US intelligence betrayed Mendes's network.
'For years we were mining high-grade gold,' he said. 'But things started going awry in 1985. We thought we knew what the KGB was doing, but then
our group of 25 started being caught and executed.
'This all had to do with Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen [Russian moles in the CIA's Russia department and the FBI's intelligence unit], but we did
not find out until years later.'
[Edited on 24-10-2002 by quaneeri]