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Friday, November 10, 2006

Russia pays nostalgic tribute to E.German spymaster

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia paid lavish tribute to dead East German spymaster Markus Wolf on Friday, playing up his Russian background and recalling past espionage triumphs over the United States and its allies.

"The memory of this wonderful, steely person will forever stay in our hearts," the Defence Ministry newspaper Red Star said.

Wolf, who masterminded some of the Cold War's biggest spying coups at the head of 4,000 spies for the Stasi secret police, died on Thursday in his sleep in Berlin.

Moscow's lavish praise for Wolf reflects a newly-awakened admiration in Russia for Cold War intelligence successes that has been promoted by President Vladimir Putin.

By contrast with German newspapers that zeroed in on Wolf's lack of remorse after the Cold War ended, Russian media hailed the spymaster as a hero.

"'The Man Without a Face' never betrayed his own", ran a headline in Izvestia daily.

"Wolf did not surrender a single agent and did not reveal those secret operations his service led," Izvestia said of the man who was known by the cover name of 'Misha' in Soviet intelligence circles.

Trud newspaper, referring to the secrets that the 83-year-old Wolf took to his grave, headlined its article: "The veil will never be lifted on the legend."

After the Cold War, U.S. intelligence services had offered Wolf a new life with a 'green card' to secure employment in exchange for the names of agents of the former Soviet KGB state security service. Newspapers said he turned them down.

"Wolf never gave up a single former colleague or agent," the Moskovsky Komsomolets daily said.

Himself a former KGB agent who was deployed in East Germany, Putin has overseen a return to respectability for the Russian security apparatus and its re-emergence as a vital state institution.

There was no official reaction from the Kremlin leader himself and it is not known if he ever met Wolf face-to-face when he was stationed in East Germany.

Newspapers recalled Wolf fled Germany from the Nazis in childhood and settled in Russia, living in a small apartment off one of Moscow's most famous streets, the Arbat. He spoke fluent Russian.

After the war he went back to East Germany and worked as a journalist before helping to set up the intelligence services and rising through the ranks of the Stasi to head its elite foreign intelligence division.

One of his most audacious operations was to plant an agent close to West German Chancellor Willy Brandt in a move that brought about Brandt's downfall when the spy was exposed in 1974.

"In the West they said that secret West German documents turned up on his desk even before they got to the federal chancellor," Izvestia said.
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