In 1978 he began working for the FBI. He revealed the existence of the KGB's Group North, an "elite unit of senior Soviet intelligence officers who specialized in recruiting American and Canadian targets worldwide." Yuzhin would take pictures of sensitive documents using a tiny CIA camera disguised as a cigarette lighter. His information led to the arrest of Arne Treholt, a Norwegian diplomat who was spying for the Soviets.
Yuzhin worked at the Soviet Consulate General in San Francisco, CA. The KGB discovered that Yuzhin was a mole in 1985, first when CIA officer Aldrich Ames identified him (as well as Valery F. Martinov and Sergei Motorin, KGB officers based in the Soviet embassy in Washington), and later when FBI mole Robert Hanssen confirmed that the three were working for U.S. intelligence a few months later, in his first letter to his Soviet handlers on October 1, 1985.
Martinov and Motorin, who were more junior KGB, were recalled to Moscow and executed. Yuzhin had returned to Moscow for reassignment in 1982 and was arrested in 1986. He spent six years of a 15-year sentence in Perm 35, a Siberian prison. According to one of Yuzhin's former FBI handlers, Yuzhin escaped execution because he was "never in residency in the KGB offices" and was able to "convince his interrogators he knew nothing about operations and cases." He was released on February 7, 1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when President Boris Yeltsin issued a general amnesty for political prisoners. Yuzhin immigrated to the United States, where the FBI helped him resettle in the San Francisco Bay area.
Ames was captured on February 21, 1994—Yuzhin's birthday. The day before Hanssen's arrest on February 18, 2001, Yuzhin received "a cryptic call" from an FBI contact telling him to "watch the news tomorrow."
Described as "mild-mannered," Yuzhin currently lives in Santa Rosa in northern California and is supported by a "modest government stipend." He lives with his wife Nadia and grown daughter Olga, an occupational therapist. Friends of Mr. Yuzhin's, including some longtime F.B.I. agents who worked with him, said he lived in an attractive house he bought about five years ago in Santa Rosa, Calif. from the money from CIA. According to reports his "mother, sister and a married son, an economist, with children of his own, live in Russia...Yuzhin has not been back to Russia since his release from prison in 1992, but his son and grandchildren come for visits." He "does historical research and augments his income with occasional lectures," including one lecture in October 2000 to the Southern California Fraud Investigation Association in Palm Springs, California, where Yuzhin spoke on "the Russian Mind."
Yuzhin has also worked with Susan Mesinai and the Ark Project on researching the cases of other former Soviet political prisoners, including Raoul Wallenberg and NSA cryptanalyst Victor Norris Hamilton, who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963 and was discovered in a Russian psychiatric hospital in 1992.
- Blumenthal, Ralph (February 23, 2001). "Spy Drama Survivor Watches as Story Unfolds". The New York Times. p. A14.
- Wise, David. "Victims of Aldrich Ames." Time. 22 May 1995
- Wise 47–49
- "American Defector Is Found in Russian Prison". The New York Times. 4 June 1992.