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26 December 2020 14:34

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George Blake, notorious double agent who defected to the Soviet Union, dies age 98

The former British spy and Soviet Union double agent George Blake has died at the age of 98. Blake was the last in a line of British spies to operate secretly for the Soviet Union, exposing the identities of hundreds of western agents across eastern Europe in the 1950s and humiliating the intelligence establishment when his work was discovered at the height of the cold war. After making it across the iron curtain into East Berlin undiscovered, he spent the rest of his life in the Soviet Union, now Russia, where he was feted as a hero. In an interview with Reuters in Moscow in 1991, Blake said he had believed communism was "an ideal which, if it could have been achieved, would have been well worth it. Born in Rotterdam in the Netherlands in 1922 to a Dutch mother and an Egyptian Jewish father who was a naturalised Briton, he escaped from the Netherlands in the second world war and reached Britain in January 1943.

After the war, Blake read Russian at Cambridge University before being sent in 1948 to Seoul where he gathered intelligence on communist North Korea, China and the Soviet far east. After his release in 1953 he returned to the UK, and in 1955 he was sent by MI6 to Berlin, where he collected information on Soviet spies but also passed secrets to Moscow about British and US operations. FILE PHOTO: Soviet secret agent George Blake gestures as he speaks at a presentation of a book of letters written by other spies from a British prison, in Moscow June 28, 2001. /File Photo George Blake, last in line of Cold War spies who betrayed Britain, dies at 98 UK Top News Timothy Heritage Polina Ivanova LONDON/MOSCOW (Reuters) - George Blake, who died in Russia on Saturday at the age of 98, was the last in a line of British spies whose secret work for the Soviet Union humiliated the intelligence establishment when it was discovered at the height of the Cold War. His case was among the most notorious of the Cold War, alongside those of a separate ring of British double agents known as the Cambridge Five. Unmasked as a Soviet spy in 1961, Blake was sentenced to 42 years in London's Wormwood Scrubs prison.

Reflecting on his life in an interview with Reuters in Moscow in 1991, Blake said he had believed the world was on the eve of Communism. After the war, Blake served briefly in the German city of Hamburg and studied Russian at Cambridge University before being sent in 1948 to Seoul where he gathered intelligence on Communist North Korea, Communist China and the Soviet Far East. After his release in 1953, he returned to Britain and in 1955 was sent by MI6 to Berlin, where he collected information on Soviet spies but also passed secrets to Moscow about British and U.S operations. "I met a Soviet comrade about once a month," he said in a 2012 interview published by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Blake, who went by the Russian name Georgy Ivanovich, was awarded a medal by Putin in 2007 and held the rank of lieutenant colonel in the former KGB security service, from which he received a pension.

"These are the happiest years of my life, and the most peaceful," Blake said in the 2012 interview marking his 90th birthday. Though he worked separately from the Cambridge Five - a spy ring of former Cambridge students who passed information to the Soviet Union - Blake said that during his retirement he got to know two of them, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby. Cold War British-Soviet double agent George Blake has died aged 98 in Moscow, according to Russian state news agency RIA. Russia's SVR foreign intelligence agency reportedly confirmed the news, with a spokesman quoted as saying: "We received some bitter news - the legendary George Blake passed away." Blake was the last in a line of spies whose work for the Soviet Union humiliated Britain's intelligence establishment when it was uncovered at the height of the Cold War. Blake famously escaped from London's Wormwood Scrubs prison in 1966, with the help of two peace activists and other inmates. Born in the Netherlands in 1922, Blake escaped the country after joining the Dutch resistance as a courier in the Second World War and reached the UK in 1943.

He began working for MI6 in 1944 and was sent to Seoul in South Korea four years later, where he gathered intelligence on North Korea, China and the Soviet Far East. Blake's remarkable escape after just a few years behind bars led to a new life in the Soviet Union - but not before he spent two months in hiding, and was driven across Europe to East Berlin inside a wooden box attached under a car. In the 2012 Russian newspaper interview to mark his 90th birthday, he said he was content and living a "peaceful" life. MOSCOW - George Blake, who died Saturday in Moscow aged 98, was a British Cold War spy and Soviet double agent who spent half his life in Russia after dramatically escaping jail in London. Born George Behar in the Netherlands in 1922 to a Dutch mother and Egyptian Jewish father, who was a British subject, he led a peripatetic youth that took him through Cairo and into the Dutch World War II resistance before joining Britain's MI6.

Ex-British Double Agent Says Russian Spies Must Save World A former British intelligence officer who once worked as a double agent for the Soviet Union said Russian spies now have "the difficult and critical mission" of saving the world, according to a statement released Friday. A former British intelligence officer who once worked as a double agent for the Soviet Union said Russian spies now have "the difficult and critical mission" of saving the world, according to a statement released Friday. George Blake has lived in Russia since his escape from a British prison in 1966. After returning to London from captivity, Blake's first major coup for his new handlers was the exposure of a secret tunnel to spy on Soviet communications in East Berlin. At the same time as he was becoming enmeshed ever deeper in his perilous work, handing over troves of secret information to the Russians, he married a woman named Gillian, who knew nothing of his double life, and they went on to have three sons. Blake, however, came to realize that communism in Russia did not live up to his hopes and he watched the system--and finally the Soviet Union--disintegrate. George Blake, the notorious double agent who defected to the Soviet Union after fleeing across the Iron Curtain, has died. The Russian foreign intelligence announced that the notorious traitor and spy passed away on Saturday in Moscow, aged 98. Blake had been living in Russia ever since escaping from Wormwood Scrubs jail in 1966, just five years into a 42-year sentence for treason. "We received some bitter news - the legendary George Blake passed away," said Sergei Ivanov, spokesman for Russia's SVR foreign intelligence agency, formerly the KGB. A year later he was helping the Secret Intelligence Service and working for MI6 permanently from about 1947. He was released three years later and began working for MI6 in Berlin at the height of the Cold War where he began to spy for the Soviet Union, betraying agents until his capture.