Vladimir Vetrov

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Vladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov
Russian: Владимир Ипполитович Ветров
BornVladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov
(1932-10-10)October 10, 1932
Died23 January 1985
Cause of deathExecution
Spying career
AllegianceSoviet Union Soviet Union
later France France
ServiceKGB, DST
RankLieutenant Colonel
Operation(s)Farewell Dossier
Other workDouble agent

Vladimir Ippolitovich Vetrov (Russian: Владимир Ипполитович Ветров; 10 October 1932 – 23 January 1985) was a high-ranking KGB spy during the Cold War who decided to covertly release valuable information to France and NATO on the Soviet Union's clandestine program aimed at stealing technology from the West.

Vetrov was assigned the code-name Farewell by the French intelligence service DST, which recruited him. He was known by that name throughout NATO's intelligence services. The code-name was chosen as an English word so that the KGB would assume he worked for the CIA if it learned his codename.[1]

His history inspired the book Bonjour Farewell: La Vérité sur la Taupe Française du KGB (1997) by Sergei Kostin. It was loosely adapted for the French film L'affaire Farewell (2009), starring Emir Kusturica, Guillaume Canet and Alexandra Maria Lara.[2]

Authors Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud have published a more complete and updated account of the Farewell dossier under the title Adieu Farewell (Laffont, Paris, 2009). This title became available in English for the first time in 2011, some thirty years after the events.


Vladimir Vetrov was born in 1932 and grew up within the Soviet system. After college, where he studied electronic engineering, he was enlisted in the KGB.

He lived in France for five years, beginning in 1965 when posted there as a Line X officer working for the KGB's 'Directorate T', which specialized in obtaining advanced information about science and technology from western countries. While there, he befriended Jacques Prévost, an engineer working with Thomson-CSF. Vetrov returned to Moscow at the end of his posting, with a subsequent posting to Montreal, though Vetrov was recalled prematurely for reasons that are still unclear.[3]

There, he rose through the ranks of Directorate T, eventually supervising the evaluation of the intelligence collected by Line X agents around the world, and passing key information to the relevant users inside the Soviet Union. Having become increasingly disillusioned with the Communist system, he decided to defect for purely ideological reasons, though he eventually and reluctantly accepted 25,500 rubles (roughly equivalent to 4 years of his salary).[3] At the end of 1980, he contacted Prévost who operated as a liaison to the French DST and offered his services to the West.[4]

Between the spring of 1981 and early 1982, Vetrov gave the DST almost 4,000 secret documents, including the complete official list of 250 Line X officers stationed under legal cover in embassies around the world. Included was a breakdown of the Soviet espionage effort to collect scientific, industrial and technical information from the West to improve its own efforts. Members of the GRU, the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and several other bodies all took part in such efforts. Vetrov also provided summaries on the goals, achievements, and unfilled objectives of the program. He identified nearly 100 leads to sources in 16 countries.

This information received by DST allowed France to expel 47 KGB agents from France on April 5, 1983.[3] Arrests were also made, including Pierre Bourdiol, which was considered a faux pas in the espionage community, as it was considered a violation of protocol to burn one's own recruit.[3]

In February 1982, after heavy drinking caused by a cooling-off period imposed by the French, who were fearful of his discovery through too much contact, Vetrov stabbed his mistress during an argument in his car (she survived).[3][5] When a man knocked on the car window, Vetrov thought his spying had been discovered, so he stabbed and killed the man. He happened to be an auxiliary policeman, likely looking for a bribe from what he thought were two people having sex in a highway median.[3] Vetrov was arrested, tried, and sentenced to 12 years in jail in the fall of 1982.

While in jail, Vetrov carelessly revealed in letters that he had been involved in "something big" before going to jail. Subsequent to that, portions of the list of Line X agents (in Vetrov's handwriting) were given to partner nations (resulting in further expulsions), one of whom had a mole which passed that portion back to the KGB, which was the "smoking gun" required to confirm their suspicions.[3] The KGB eventually discovered that he was a double agent. As part of his confession, Vetrov wrote a blistering denunciation of the Soviet system, "The Confession of a Traitor". News of his subsequent execution reached France in March 1985.

The information which Vetrov provided enabled the western countries to expel nearly 150 Soviet technology spies around the world; the French expelled 47 Soviet spies, most of whom were from Line X. This caused the collapse of the Soviet's information program at a time when it was particularly crucial. The U.S. created a massive operation to provide the Soviets with faulty data and sabotaged parts for certain technologies, as a consequence to the Farewell Dossier. Vetrov was also responsible for exposing the spy Dieter Gerhardt, a senior officer in the South African Navy who had been spying for the Soviets for 20 years.[6] Vetrov also provided information hinting at a Polish coup d'état (eventually found to be that by Wojciech Jaruzelski,[3] and alleging a link between the Soviet Union and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.spymaniac.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&layout=item&id=670&Itemid=7[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ L'affaire Farewell, IMDB website entry.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Kostin, S., & Raynaud, É. (2011). Farewell. Amazonencore.
  4. ^ "Farewell — The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century by Sergei Kostin and Eric Raynaud". Retrieved 2016-04-05.
  5. ^ Weiss, Gus W. (1996), "The Farewell Dossier: Duping the Soviets", Studies in Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency
  6. ^ "Spioen-Spioen 'n Ware(?) Verhaal". Beeld. 2011-11-11. Retrieved 2011-12-22.

Further reading[edit]

  • Brook-Shepherd, Gordon (1989). The Storm Birds: Soviet Post-War Defectors. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. pp. 311–327.
  • Kostin, Sergei; Raynaud, Eric (2011). Farewell: The Greatest Spy Story of the Twentieth Century. AmazonCrossing. ISBN 1611090261.

External links[edit]