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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Turncoat Turns Up in Far East

VLADIVOSTOK, Far East -- Former Soviet agent George Blake has turned up in Russia's Far East, home to the KGB agents who recruited him half a century ago, and is busy praising former spy chief Yevgeny Primakov, now a politician.

Blake was a British intelligence officer who spied for the Soviet Union for 10 years until unmasked in 1961. He escaped from prison in 1966 and fled to Moscow, where he still lives.

"A legendary figure in the history of Anglo-Russian political relations ... George Blake ... is now acquainting himself with the Primorye region for the first time," a local administration official said.

Local officials said regional Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko had invited Blake - one of Russia's most infamous British turncoats - to visit. But one FSB domestic intelligence officer in Vladivostok said the trip was not connected with Nazdratenko.

Blake has declined to speak to reporters during his visit. But local officials who have heard his discussions with FSB and regional leaders say they have been struck by the number of times he has praised Primakov and his role in "establishing intelligence services and Russian statehood."

Primakov was prime minister from September 1998 until President Boris Yeltsin sacked him in May. Earlier, he worked as foreign minister and as head of Russia's foreign intelligence service.

Primakov is a leader in the Fatherland-All Russia political bloc set up by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

An FSB official in Vladivostok said it was KGB agents from the local station who recruited Blake in the 1950s while he was a prisoner of war in communist North Korea.

"One huge victory for Primorye KGB agents was connected with the recruiting of one of the most valuable sources in the entire history of Soviet espionage," said the FSB official. "George Blake was a senior figure at the heart of British intelligence."

The official said one of the agents who recruited Blake, now in his 70s, still worked as a consultant for the Vladivostok FSB. "It is not ruled out that Blake will meet his former controller," the official said. Another recruiter, Nikolai Loyenko, died in the 1980s and is buried in Vladivostok. An administration official said Blake was being accompanied in Vladivostok by Foreign Intelligence Service agents and was studying archives that "could help him to write memoirs."

Blake, who was sentenced to 42 years in prison for betraying British agents, has appealed to Britain's highest court seeking access to royalties from his 1990 autobiography, "No Other Choice."