Moscow: A host of spies led by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin paid their last respects on Friday to one
of the Soviet Union`s most legendary agents as he was laid to
rest in Moscow will full honours.
Gevork Vartanyan -- who protected the Allied "Big Three"
in the World War II Tehran conference -- died earlier this
week aged 87 after spending most of his professional life
under cover abroad.
Putin, who served in the KGB in the former East Germany,
attended the ceremony at Moscow`s Troyekurovskoye cemetery to
pay his last respects to the "outstanding Soviet intelligence
officer," a government statement said.
Putin was shown on national television arriving with a
bunch of red roses and kissing a woman -- apparently
Vartanyan`s widow and fellow agent Goar -- three times on the
cheeks while holding her hands with his.
At a ceremony complete with military honours, mourners
filed by Vartanyan`s casket covered with the Russian
tri-colour flag, with his numerous decorations including the
top state award -- the Hero of the Soviet Union -- displayed
on red velvet pillows nearby.
Mikhail Fradkov, the head of the Russian Foreign
Intelligence Service (SVR) -- the successor to the Soviet KGB,
as well as former service heads Yevgeny Primakov and Sergei
Lebedev were also in attendance, said NTV television channel.
Vartanyan`s greatest exploit was his role in thwarting a
Nazi assassination plot at the 1943 conference in Tehran
between the Allied "Big Three" of Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin,
British prime minister Winston Churchill and US president F.D.
"He was a professional of the highest calibre," Putin
said in a telegram to Vartanyan`s relatives, adding he had
lived a "great, bright life full of heroic events."
The son of an Iranian factory owner of Armenian origin,
Vartanyan is survived by Goar, who he married three times
under different names and in different countries as part of
their career undercover, according to government newspaper
Rossiiskaya Gazeta. They had no children.