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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spy Drama Survivor Watches Tale Unfold

NEW YORK — Boris Yuzhin could be called the third man in the unfolding FBI spy drama, the only survivor of a trio of named Russian agents for the United States who the government says were exposed by Robert Philip Hanssen. On Monday, the day before the espionage scandal broke, Yuzhin received a cryptic call at his home in Northern California. "Watch the news tomorrow,'' an FBI contact said.

And so Yuzhin, a mild-mannered former Soviet KGB operative who worked secretly for the FBI in the 1970s and 1980s before being unmasked in Moscow and imprisoned in Siberia, learned with the rest of the world on Tuesday of Hanssen's arrest.

"They always catch them on my birthday,'' Yuzhin, who turned 59 on Wednesday, told a friend who later recounted the conversation in an interview.

It was exactly seven years earlier, on Feb. 21, 1994, that the FBI arrested Aldrich Ames, a senior official of the CIA, and his wife on charges of selling the Soviet Union and later Russia some of the nation's most sensitive secrets. Although working independently of each other, Ames and Hanssen corroborated each other's information for the Russians, the Justice Department has charged. Ames is serving a life sentence.

In an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint and arrest and search warrants, the FBI named Yuzhin and two KGB officers in the Soviet Embassy in Washington — Valery Martinov and Sergei Motorin — as having been exposed as spies for the United States by Ames in 1985 and then several months later by Hanssen.

The two senior KGB officers were recalled to Moscow and executed. Yuzhin, back in Moscow for reassignment, was arrested in 1986 and spent more than five years of a 15-year sentence in the Perm 35 prison before being released in an amnesty in 1992 after the fall of communism.

He later immigrated to the United States and was resettled with the help of the FBI in the San Francisco area, where he had been assigned by the KGB a quarter century ago to monitor student activities and work under the cover of being a Tass correspondent — and where he decided to volunteer his services to the FBI.

Why wasn't he executed? "He was never in residency in the KGB offices,'' said one of his former FBI handlers. "He was able to convince his interrogators he knew nothing about operations and cases.''

Yuzhin said Thursday that he did not want to discuss the latest developments, largely over concern with jeopardizing family ties in Russia. He said, however, that he had never met Hanssen and had long thought that it was Ames alone who had betrayed him.

Friends of Yuzhin's, including some longtime FBI agents who worked with him, said he lives with his wife and grown daughter, an occupational therapist, in an attractive house he bought about five years ago in Santa Rosa, California. His mother, sister and a married son, an economist with children of his own, live in Russia. Yuzhin has not been back to Russia since his release from prison in 1992, but his son and grandchildren come for visits.

Supported by a modest U.S. government stipend, he writes, does historical research and augments his income with occasional lectures.