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Author of Comrade J on Tretyakov's death

Released on 2012-03-08 09:00 GMT

Email-ID 1600801
Date 2010-07-09 17:11:42

Sergei Tretyakov, Comrade J, has died.
Published by Pete on July 9, 2010 in Books and Personal.
I am sorry to announce that my good friend, Sergei Tretyakov, the subject
of my book, Comrade J: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in
America After the End of the Cold War, died unexpectedly on June 13th in
his home with his wife, Helen.
Sergei was 53.
Helen asked those of us who were his friends to not immediately reveal his
death until an autopsy could be performed under the supervision of the
FBI. She was concerned that Sergei's former colleagues in Russia's SVR,
which replaced the KGB as Russia's foreign intelligence service, might
attempt to use his unexpected death for propaganda purposes.
That autopsy has now been completed and it showed no evidence of foul
play, according to an FBI official who spoke to me off-the-record. Helen
said her husband died from massive cardiac arrest.
In keeping with Russian Orthodox religious traditions, a private funeral
was held on the third day after his death. On the ninth day, more than 200
people attended a private celebration of his life. The guests included
close friends, neighbors and persons who had worked with him in the United
Sergei was called "the most important spy for the U.S. since the collapse
of the Soviet Union" by an FBI official in my book. Unfortunately, because
much of what he said is still being used by U. S. counter-intelligence
officers, it will be years before the true extent of his contribution can
be made public - if ever.
Sergei Olegovich Tretyakov was born Oct. 5, 1956 in Moscow and rose
quickly through the ranks to become the second-in-command of the KGB in
New York City between 1995 to 2000. As such, he oversaw all Russian spy
operations against the US and its allies in New York City and within the
United Nations.
When he defected on Oct. 11, 2000, with Helen and their daughter, Ksenia,
the U.S. government took the family into hiding and during the next five
years, they lived largely "off the grid." It wasn't until Comrade J was
published and Sergei went on a book tour that his work both as a
high-ranking KGB/SVR officer and U.S. operative was made public. It is
thought that he spent at least three years working as a U.S. agent while
he was still an SVR colonel in New York.
Sergei, Helen and their daughter became U.S. citizens after they defected
and although some federal officials feared for their safety, Sergei lived
openly under his own name without protection - although when he traveled
overseas, he always had an FBI escort. Sergei was convinced that his U.S.
citizenship protected him from the SVR, even though he continued to
publicly criticize his former colleagues, especially President Vladimir
The recent arrests of eleven Russian "illegals" on June 28th by the FBI
thrust Sergei's name into the news once again. The fact that he was in
charge of all covert operations in New York City when several of the
illegals entered the country suggested that he was aware of their
operations and quickly led to speculation that he had tipped-off the FBI
about the ring.
However, on Thursday, a informed source told me that Sergei was not
involved in the case. Sergei told U.S. officials when he was debriefed
about Russian "illegal" operations, but he did not know the individuals
who later were arrested, my source said.
I became close friends with Sergei and Helen while working on my book
about their life and his career. They insisted that I stay with them in
their home and during our weeks together, I witnessed first-hand how much
he and Helen loved each other, their devotion to their daughter, and love
for their new homeland. I also was delighted to discover that Helen was a
gourmet cook!
Sergei dispelled many of the Hollywood stereotypes of a Russian agent. He
was well-educated, fluent in three languages, quick-witted, personable and
able to laugh at his own mistakes when he didn't understand an American
tradition or slang.
He proved to be a tireless worker when I interviewed him. He would speak
for ten hours straight, often pacing back-and-forth, in the family room of
his house as we discussed his career. He had a fabulous memory that he had
sharpened as a KGB/SVR officer and he refused to speculate or exaggerate
when he discussed KGB/SVR operations. He knew his enemies in Russia would
use the slightest mistake to attack his credibility so he was scrupulous
in what he said and the charges that he made.
Having written bestselling books about two American traitors, including
John Walker Jr., and his Family of Spies,and Aldrich Ames, the CIA
turncoat, I was struck at how different Sergei was from U.S. traitors.
Walker and Ames were motivated by greed and money. Sergei did not need
money. Upon his return to Russia from New York, he was due to be promoted
to the rank of general, which would have guaranteed him a cushy
retirement. He had assets in Moscow worth more than two million U.S.
dollars - money that was stripped from him after he defected.
It was clear to me early on that he did not swtich sides for financial
gain, but rather because he had lost faith in Russian leaders and he
wanted a better life for his young daughter. He liked to say that he did
not betray his homeland. Rather he and other ordinary citizens in Russia
had been betrayed by Presidents Boris Yeltsin and Putin after the Soviet
Union collapsed.
Neither Walker or Ames ever wanted to become Russian citizens, but Sergei
and his family relished their U.S. citizenship. Sergei often told me that
Americans were naive because they took freedoms for granted and did not
understand how unique our lives here are compared to life in an oppressive
nation, such as Russia whose leaders often silence their critics,
especially those in the media, with a bullet.
One reason why I believe Sergei did not know about the 11 Russians who
were arrested as illegals is because he did not hold back during our
interviews in identifying persons whom he claimed were Russian spies.
Among the individuals identified in my book were a former member of the
Canadian Parliament, a top-ranking verification expert at the
International Atomic Energy Agency, and a former U.N. official who Sergei
helped place in the Oil For Food Program. That UN official diverted a half
billion US dollars of UN humanitarian relief to Moscow under both the
Yeltsin and Putin administrations and was rewarded by Putin for the
thefts. Sergei was disgusted by that thievery and said so.
In our interviews, he talked repeatedly about how Yeltsin had failed the
Russian people by becoming a drunken stumble-bum who allowed Oligarchs to
engorge themselves by stealing government property. He had similar harsh
criticisms for Putin, whom Sergei described as an insignificant KGB
officer who later as president surrounded himself with thugs. Their
primary goal has been to enrich themselves, he charged.
Sergei asked me to write his story at the suggestion of a director in the
British intelligence service. They were having dinner when my name was
mentioned because the director had read my book about Aldrich Ames and had
admired it. Sergei waived his rights to any advance money from the
publisher and received less than $10,000 from the book's sales even though
it was a New York Times bestseller. Money was not his motive in telling
his story.
Instead, he hoped to sound a wake-up call about Russia. He was fond of
saying that the Cold War never ended. Before the collapse of the Soviet
Union, the KGB had a list of three main adversaries: (1.) The United
States (2.) NATO and (3.) China. After the KGB was disbanded and the SVR
was formed, Sergei said a new edict came down announcing that the SVR had
three main targets: (1.) The United States (2.) NATO and (3.) China.
"What changed?" he asked, laughing.
Those of us who were his friends will miss his sense of humor, his
knowledge about Russia and KGB/SVR spy-craft, and his almost child-like
love for his new country.
I was honored to write his life story and to call him my friend.
I will miss not hearing his voice when I call.

Sean Noonan
Tactical Analyst
Mobile: +1 512-758-5967
Strategic Forecasting, Inc.