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He graduated in International Law from the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia when it was still named the Patrice Lumumba Peoples' Friendship University. He also graduated from Institute of Foreign Intelligence, where he was studying with Vladimir Putin.
Shvets recruited two key sources of political intelligence whom he referred to as Sputnitsa and Socrates. Sputnisa is identified as a journalist working in District of Columbia, and Socrates as a former Jimmy Carter's administration aide with strong ties to Greece. In his 2005 book "Spy Handler: Memoir of a KGB Officer", Victor Cherkashin alleges that "Socrates" was John Helmer and Sputnitsa the late New Statesman journalist Claudia Wright. However, Cherkashin also claims that contrary to Shvets' assertions, Helmer was "never an agent or even a target" of the KGB.
After publishing a book describing his exploits and ultimate falling out with the KGB, Shvets was banned from foreign travel. In 1994, he secretly made his way to America where he now resides.
In 2006, Shvets emerged as a potentially key witness in the poisoning of ex-FSB RF officer Alexander Litvinenko. In an interview with the BBC, broadcast on 16 December 2006, Shvets said that he and Litvinenko had compiled a report investigating the activities of senior Kremlin officials on behalf of a British company looking to invest "dozens of millions of dollars" in a project in Russia. Shvets said the dossier was so incriminating about one senior Kremlin official, who was not named, it was likely that Litvinenko was murdered in revenge. He alleged that Litvinenko had shown the dossier to another business associate, Andrei Lugovoi, who had worked for the KGB SSSR and later the FSB RF. Shvets alleged that Lugovoi was still an FSB RF informant and he had passed the dossier to members of the spy service. Shvets says he was interviewed about his allegations by Scotland Yard detectives investigating Litvinenko's murder.
- "Book Discussion on Washington Station: My Life as a KGB Spy". C-SPAN. 14 April 1995. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
- "Another Ex-KGB Spy Spills the Beans / Yuri B. Shvets claims he recruited a former Carter adviser". SFGate. 12 March 1995. Retrieved 2015-11-16.
- MI6 double agent was 'betrayed by a journalist' - Times Online