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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

German Wolf Releases Spy Memoirs

Markus Wolf, the former East German spy master known among Western agents as "the man without a face," because for decades no photographer could get near him, returned to his old stomping ground Thursday to unveil his autobiography to Russian readers.

Speaking flawless Russian and accompanied by fellow retired spies, the 74-year-old former director of the East German spy network talked about his youth spent in and around Moscow's Arbat in the 1930s, about his respect for the late Soviet leader Yury Andropov and his disillusionment with democratic reforms.

Wolf grew up in the Soviet Union, where he immigrated from Germany in 1934 with his father, renowned playwright and Communist Friedrich Wolf and his brother Conrad Wolf, who would later become an acclaimed filmmaker in Communist East Germany.

He returned to East Germany after the war and worked as a journalist before joining the intelligence service.

One of Wolf's biggest coups was planting an agent in the office of West German Chancellor Willy Brandt. The discovery of the mole led to the 1974 resignation of the popular Nobel peace laureate.

Wolf spent 1990 and 1991 in Russia, hiding from the political turmoil in East Germany, leaving only after the August 1991 coup that overthrew Russia's communist regime and brought Boris Yeltsin to power.

After communism collapsed, Wolf was not allowed to forget his past.

He was tried three times in reunified Germany on charges of treason, abduction, and coercion while leading intelligence operations during the 1950s and 1960s.

In May 1997, he was convicted of four brutal kidnappings during the Cold War, but his sentence was suspended. Wolf has always maintained that he was innocent because he served his country and never broke its laws.

His book, the Russian edition of which is titled "Games in a Foreign Field," was first published in the United States in May 1997 under the title "Man Without a Face." The Russian publishers, which is printing 8,000 copies of the book, say the project is of an "altruistic and promotional nature."

Wolf writes that in 1991, he was approached by the CIA with an offer to move to the United States.

"They made some flattering remarks, offered me a villa in California under the eternal sun, and other conditions,'' he said Thursday. "I understood that the CIA was looking for a Soviet mole" within the agency.

In 1995, the mole -- Aldrich Ames -- was discovered. By that time he had handed over names of more then 100 U.S. agents to the Soviet Union and Russia in exchange for about $2.5 million -- the biggest failure in the history of the CIA. Some of the agents betrayed by Ames were executed.

After retiring in 1986, Wolf came in from the cold with "Secrets of Russian Cooking," a collection of recipes in which he compared the art of creating hors d'oeuvres with the fine art of spying.

Still looking fit and with a keen mind, Wolf says he has no regrets.

"I have 11 grandchildren now," he said. "The state I've served has collapsed, so I'm often asked if my life was spent in vain. At least because of them, I haven't lived in vain."