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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Krassilnikov, Bane of The CIA, Dead at 76

NEW YORK -- Rem Krassilnikov, a legendary figure within the KGB who was in charge of the investigations and arrests of the American spies betrayed by Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen and other moles in the final years of the Cold War, died in Moscow last week. He was 76.

Krassilnikov, a major general in the KGB, was virtually unknown outside the Soviet intelligence service but wielded broad power within it. During the critical years of the mid- and late 1980s, he was chief of the First Department within the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, which placed him in charge of investigating and disrupting CIA operations in Moscow.

CIA officers eventually came to recognize the quiet, white-haired general as one of their main intelligence adversaries. Within the KGB, Krassilnikov earned the nickname "the professor of counterintelligence," and some American intelligence officers who went up against him saw him as the real life embodiment of "Karla," the mysterious Soviet spymaster in the novels of John le Carr?.

Born in 1927, he was the son of a senior officer in the NKVD, the predecessor to the KGB, and was literally fixed at birth with the stamp of Lenin's dream. His parents named him Rem, an acronym for the Russian phrase meaning "world revolution." Rem Krassilnikov followed his father into Soviet intelligence and was sent to overseas postings that included Canada and Lebanon. He married a woman whose parents had named her Ninel -- Lenin spelled backward.

Krassilnikov had taken over the First Department of the Second Chief Directorate, which concentrated on American activities in Moscow, by the time that a series of American spies began to give the Soviets a treasure trove of information about CIA operations in the mid-1980s.

First, in 1984, Edward Lee Howard, who had been fired by the CIA just before he was to be posted to Moscow, began to provide information to the KGB about spies working for the CIA in Moscow. In the spring of 1985, Ames, chief of counterintelligence in the CIA's Soviet Division, then volunteered to the KGB and eventually turned over a list of Russians working for the CIA.

In the fall of 1985, Hanssen, an FBI agent, volunteered to the KGB and provided information on many of the same agents betrayed by Ames.

For a brief time, that sudden wealth of inside information led Krassilnikov and his KGB spyhunters from triumph to triumph, as they rolled up one American spy after another throughout 1985 and 1986.

Perhaps the most important spy he captured was Adolf Tolkachev, a Soviet scientist who had provided the CIA with thousands of pages of secret documents on Soviet military aircraft designs and who is credited with helping the United States Air Force design new planes that could defeat the best the Soviets had on their drawing boards. Tolkachev was arrested in early 1985 and later executed.

In virtually every case, Krassilnikov's team would arrest a Russian agent working for the CIA in secret. Later, the KGB would often try to ambush a CIA case officer waiting to meet the spy, not realizing the agent was already in prison.

The result of the Soviet offensive was that by 1987, the CIA had lost virtually all of its agents in Moscow, and the agency's ability to track Soviet intelligence had been severely damaged.