Born in Kutaisi, Georgia, Krotkov received his BA in literature from the University of Moscow. He worked for TASS and Radio Moscow. After World War II, he was an information officer in Berlin, Germany as a KGB agent. By 1956, he was a screenwriter in Moscow and still a KGB agent. He was selected as one of the principal agents in the seduction/compromise operation against Maurice Dejean, the French ambassador to the USSR, and his wife. Krotkov was tasked with seducing the wife while various women agents seduced the husband.
On 13 September 1963, feeling guilty for the suicide of French military attaché Louis Guibaud, which was driven by a similar seduction/compromise operation, he defected in London, England. In 1964, he vouched for Yuri Nosenko. His information led to the exposure of John Watkins. In 1969, he moved to the United States and became a novelist. He wrote I Am From Moscow (1967), The Red Monarch: Scenes From the Life of Stalin (1979), and The Nobel Prize (1980).
In November 1969, Krotkov testified before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Internal Security that Wilfred Burchett had been his agent when he worked as a KGB controller. However, he also named, very implausibly, Jean-Paul Sartre and John Kenneth Galbraith as KGB agents, casting a great deal of doubt on his testimony. He claimed that Burchett had proposed a "special relationship" with the Soviets at their first meeting in Berlin in 1947. Krotkov also reported that Burchett had worked as an agent for both Vietnam and China and was a secret member of the Communist Party of Australia. For his part, Burchett critic Tibor Méray alleged that he was an undercover party member but not a KGB agent.
The returning dissident Vladimir Bukovsky was able to gain access to formerly secret documents in Moscow in 1992, and was able to copy them, including those concerning Burchett. According to communist propaganda expert Herbert Romerstein, these documents reveal that in July 1957 the KGB advised the Central Committee of the Communist Party that their agent Burchett had become Moscow correspondent of pro-communist newspaper National Guardian. As the newspaper could not afford to pay him a salary, KGB requested an immediate payment of 20,000 rubles and a monthly subsidy of 3000 rubles. Burchett resigned from National Guardian in 1979 when the newspaper took the side of Chinese and Cambodian communists against the Soviet and Vietnamese communists. Robert Manne gave a similar account in 2013. Manne writes: "Every detail in the KGB memorandum is consistent with the Washington testimony of Yuri Krotkov. It now turns out that he was not a liar and a perjurer, but a truth-teller." KGB archives indicate that in 1957 Burchett was receiving monetary compensation for his services as a journalist, but do not contain evidence of espionage or acting as an agent for the Soviet state.
- Barron, John (1974), KGB: the secret work of Soviet secret agents, Reader's Digest Press, ISBN 0883490099
- Ben Kiernan (ed.), Burchett: Reporting the Other Side of the World, 1939–1983, Quartet Books, London, 1986, p. 296.
- Tibor Méray, On Burchett, Callistemon Publications, Kallista, Victoria, Australia, 2008, pp. 92–93, 198, 202-203.
- Russian Presidential Archives, File b2/128gs
- Herbert Romerstein (Summer 2001). "Disinformation as a KGB Weapon in the Cold War". The Journal of Intelligence History. International Intelligence History Association. 1 (1): 57–58.
- Robert Manne "Wilfred Burchett and the KGB", The Monthly (Australia) No.92, August 2013
- Solzhenitsyn Archives, Foreign Policy[verification needed] Archived November 28, 2010, at the Wayback Machine. in Russian: Пост. С-та ЦК. По ходатайству КГБ выдано единовременное пособие (20 тыс руб) и установлена ежемесячная субсидия корреспонденту газеты "Нейшенел гардиен" (орган американской прогрессивной партии) Берчетту. Translation: At the request of the KGB, Central Committee of the CPSU issues a lump sum payment (20,000 rubles), and a monthly subsidy to the correspondent of the newspaper National Guardian (publication of the American Progressive Party) Burchett.