London: Russia has sent a "hit squad" to eliminate a renegade colonel in its own foreign intelligence service who fled to the US after giving FBI the names of the 10 sleeper agents who made up the sprawling spy ring, in an echo of the Cold War days, a media report said.
The man, named as Colonel Scherbakov, worked for SVR foreign intelligence service, a successor agency to the KGB, where he oversaw a top secret programme to dispatch long-term sleeper agents to the US, including glamorous spy Anna Chapman,
`The Daily Telegraph` quoted Russian intelligence sources as telling the `Kommersant` newspaper.
A Kremlin source was quoted as saying that Scherbakov, the traitor, would not have long to savour his betrayal. "We know who he is and where he is. Have no doubt that a Mercader has been sent after him already," the source said.
Ramon Mercader was the KGB assassin who had murdered exiled Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky with an ice pick in 1940.
A "Mercader" is a synonym for a hit squad. "The fate of such an individual is unenviable. He will fear revenge every day (of his life)," the source continued. The FBI went public with the names Colonel Scherbakov had given it in June just days after he himself had fled to the United States. The 10 agents he compromised were exchanged
for four men convicted by Russia of being Western spies the following month in the biggest spy swap since the Cold War.
Even Vladimir Putin, who served as a KGB agent in East Germany in the 1980s, hinted this summer that he knew the identity of the traitor. "This was the result of treason and
traitors always end badly," the Russian Prime Minister said.
The reason for Colonel Scherbakov betraying his own agents was not clear, but the Russian newspaper said that his daughter was a longtime resident of the United States and that his son had moved there earlier this year.