The Russian Intelligence Apparatus // Russia, Ukraine, Putin & Trump; A conversation with former KGB agent Yuri Shvets

Yuri Shvets is a former KGB agent who served as an undercover operative in Washington, DC, during the 1980s. He left the KGB and moved permanently to the US in 1993. Since then, he has been an in-demand commentator on Russian politics and security issues, including on his popular Russian language YouTube channel. He also provided UK investigators with information in the aftermath of the 2006 murder of former Russian FSB agent Alexander Litvinenko.


You have a very interesting background. I understand that you’re Ukrainian. 

Yes. I was born in Ukraine, and as far back as I know, my ancestors have been Ukrainian. 

And Russian speaking?

Yes. I lived about a third of my life in Ukraine, about a third of my life in Moscow—in the Soviet Union—and I’ve been living in the US since 1993. Before that I was an agent for the KGB for ten years.

Were you still a KGB agent when you moved to the US?

I was in the US as a KGB agent during the mid-1980s, and then I returned to Russia. Two years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, I immigrated to the US, but I came on my Soviet passport, which was still valid. I have never been a Russian citizen, so I don’t have any legal connection with the Russian Federation. 

I guess your sympathies would be with Ukraine rather than Russia because of your background. 

I come from a multicultural background. My father was a physician in the Soviet Air Force, so we traveled from one base to another across the Soviet Union throughout my youth. The pilots were part of a multinational community that included Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Tatars—you name it. These people had gone through World War II, so they shared a brotherhood that was forged on the battlefield. What’s happening now is incomprehensible, because there was never a difference between Russians and Ukrainians; it was one nation since 1654. So to me this is like a civil war. You live in New York. Can you imagine New Hampshire attacking New York tomorrow? It’s a similar situation, and it’s just insane. I’m on the side of Ukraine not just because of my background but because it’s common sense. 

Where in Ukraine are you from?

I was born in Kharkov, but I only lived there for the first three months of my life. I lived in Zaporozhye and Kherson—mostly in the latter, which is where I went to school. 

Seeing it destroyed must be very painful. 

Of course. I still have friends and relatives living in Ukraine, some of them in the city of Zaporozhye. It’s painful. I’m in contact with them, and it’s heartbreaking to hear about what’s happening there. 

On the one hand, it’s like brother fighting against brother, as you said, but on the other hand that’s Putin’s justification for the war, because he says that Ukraine is part of Russia. 

That’s what he says, but it’s insane. I know a lot about Putin. This is a person with very poor education, and everything he says is rubbish. He looks for justifications, just like any villain before committing a crime. If he really believes that Ukrainians and Russians are brothers, why does he bomb and shell the Ukrainian civilian population? He’s destroying the population because he’s failing on the battlefield. How can you kill your brother and claim that you’re still brothers? It doesn’t make any sense. 


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