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Putin's daughters, Anna Chapman and others: The high-profile tenants of KGB and SVR safehouses

The KGB had hundreds of safehouses in Moscow, where the agency hid witnesses and held secret meetings. They were called “cuckoos” (“kukushka”) and registered to fake names or government enterprises. After the KGB was abolished, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and Federal Guard Service (FSO) took over the majority of the “cuckoos,” with the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) taking over the rest. The Insider found out that two SVR safe houses were used by Putin's daughters Maria and Katerina, several other “cuckoo homes” served as hiding places for Russian spies deported from the US, while the rest were used by SVR academy students, trained to work illegally abroad.

  • Putin's daughters and others

  • Anna Chapman and a Hero of the Soviet Union

  • Spies from Nornickel, Rosneft and Transneft

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Putin's daughters and others

In Soviet times, one of the apartments at 25, Novinsky Boulevard, apartment 10 (formerly Tchaikovsky Street) was a KGB observation post, used to monitor the US Embassy. Operatives with special photo equipment were on duty at the apartment round the clock – as soon as an American diplomat got into a car KGB agents followed. During Gorbachev's “dry law,” which spanned from 1985 to 1987, the officers secretly used the apartment to celebrate holidays and consume alcohol.

Since 1993, American diplomats were no longer filmed, and the safehouse was taken over by Russia’s foreign intelligence service. The owner was a certain V.A. Stepanov, who had no date of birth, no passport, and no relatives. The apartment was registered under number 151, although there were only 51 apartments in the building. Secret meetings of SVR officers with recruited diplomats from Africa, Latin America and the Middle East were held in this particular “cuckoo.”

In 2010, a barrier was installed at the entrance to the courtyard, and the apartment underwent a swanky renovation. New tenants soon arrived -– Putin's eldest daughter Maria Vorontsova and her Dutch husband Jorrit Faassen. The couple communicated with each other in English and were guarded by members of the FSO’s Presidential Security Service around the clock.

Maria Vorontsova
Maria Vorontsova

Vorontsova and Faassen, however, were rarely seen at Novinsky Boulevard, instead choosing to travel the world, eventually leaving for the Netherlands. According to the neighbors, a gray-haired man and a young woman visit the apartment from time to time, and a quiet cleaning lady comes once a month.

Putin's youngest daughter Katerina Tikhonova lived in another “cuckoo” at 17/25 Mosfilmovskaya Street. During the Soviet era, the safehouse was used for meetings with recruited professors from various Moscow universities – RUDN, MGIMO, and Moscow State University (MSU). After the property was handed over to the SVR, the apartment was registered in the name of I.N. Larionov, who, unsurprisingly, has no identification data, documents or official biography. Tikhonova did not live at Mosfilmovskaya for long, but soon moved to a mansion not far from Putin's residence. Apparently, the reasons for her departure were the “drug-addicted neighbors” and a series of burglaries in the same building.

Katerina Tikhonova
Katerina Tikhonova

Yet another “cuckoo” at 8 Berezhkovskaya Embankment was rumored to be hiding NSA defector Edward Snowden (though he denied the rumors).

The Insider discovered that the safehouse was located on the ninth floor, and had been used by the KGB since the 1960s. Former Latvian KGB operative Boris Karpichkov, who later fled to the UK, recalled:

“That same ‘cuckoo’ on Berezhkovskaya Embankment, in the very center of Moscow, was fully furnished, though not new, but it had fairly good quality furniture and was complete with all the necessary household goods (even clean linens). It was a three-room apartment, in which no one lived permanently.”

Karpichkov said that another safehouse, assigned to the SVR’s foreign counterintelligence department, is located at 2 Protochny Lane. Seven people with no identifying data were listed among the tenants of the apartment building – the legal owner of the “cuckoo” remained a mystery.

Anna Chapman and a Hero of the Soviet Union

In 2010, Russian illegals exposed by the FBI and identified by Colonel Alexander Poteyev, who had fled to the United States, were swapped for Colonel Sergei Skripal of the GRU, Colonel Alexander Zaporozhsky of the SVR, scientist Igor Sutyagin and former FSB agent Gennady Vasilenko, who had been imprisoned in Russia for espionage. The ex-spies were then all placed in “cuckoos”.

Apartment 2 at No. 8 Lyalin Lane was home to perhaps the most famous person of the entire “illegals” program – Anna Chapman (Kushchenko). The house of the Moscow merchant Takke was built in 1910 – after the Bolshevik revolution, the building housed multiple prominent party members, and after they were arrested “for espionage activities and the creation of a Trotskyist organization”, their apartments were transferred to the KGB’s precursor organization, the NKVD. The total area of Chapman's safehouse measures 46 sq.m. (495 square feet), while the legal owner is the fictitious Fedorova E.T.

Anna Chapman
Anna Chapman

Together with Chapman, KGB-SVR Colonel Mikhail Vasenkov, who worked under the alias Juan Jose Lazaro Fuentes, and his Peruvian wife Virginia “Vicky” Pelaez Ocampo, were deported from the United States. Vasenkov began his spy career as early as 1975, when he was sent to Peru disguised as a Spanish businessman. In 1983, he married Peruvian journalist Virginia Pelaez, and the family eventually moved to New York, where Vasenkov headed an illegal KGB First Directorate (PGU) residence, which included journalists, businessmen, and members of left-wing youth organizations. In 1990, a closed decree of the USSR’S Supreme Soviet decorated Vasenkov as a Hero of the Soviet Union. He did not admit to working for Russian intelligence until Alexander Poteyev, an SVR defector, came to his cell and showed him his personal file, which he had stolen from Moscow.

Mikhail Vasenkov and Virginia “Vicky” Pelaez Ocampo
Mikhail Vasenkov and Virginia “Vicky” Pelaez Ocampo

In Moscow, the ex-spies were lodged in the former revenue house of cavalry general Alexander von Baumgarten at 53/25 Plyuschikha Street, Building 1. Four families lived there until 1968, but it was taken over by the KGB after the house was vacated. Until 1995, the “cuckoo” was registered in the name of former KGB Major Andrei Podvoinikov, then under the operational records of the Foreign Intelligence Service safehouse began to pass as “mailbox Plyushchikha 53/25”.

Spies from Nornickel, Rosneft and Transneft

Another intelligence agent, Andrei Bezrukov, lived in the United States under the name of Donald Howard Heathfield and his wife, Elena Vavilova, lived under the name of Tracey Lee Ann Foley. Both worked for the US Army intelligence service and made a lot of connections in the US and Canada over the 20 years of their spy work. After the exchange, it turned out that the spouses did not have their own apartment in Moscow, and they were lodged in a “cuckoo” on Mozhaiskiy Val. The landlord is listed as a certain R.D. Alidulin. The neighbors told The Insider that they had never encountered anyone named Alidulin. But they vied with each other to tell how in 2010 in the apartment across the street died honored doctor of the RSFSR 73-year-old Vladimir Rogaylin, and his body lay in the kitchen for six months.

At Putin's behest, Bezrukov was hired as an advisor to Russia’s largest oil company, Rosneft, while Vavilova assumed a similar post at commodity giant Nornickel. Both have written autobiographies, and regularly make appearances on TV to tell young people about their love for the Motherland. Their sons Tim and Alex, who were born in Canada, lived at the safehouse with their parents. They took their mother's last name and were issued Russian passports: Tim became Timofei Vavilov and Alex became Alexander.

Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova
Andrei Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova

Meanwhile, both sons had grown up and were seeking to regain their Canadian citizenship. A court in Canada sided with the brothers, and, according to several reports, immediately left Russia after receiving Canadian passports. Incidentally, the eldest of the brothers, Tim, adopted a new surname – Fleming, like the writer Ian Fleming, creator of the James Bond series of spy novels.

SVR Colonel Mikhail Kutsik came to the United States in 2001 under the name Michael Zottoli, and was joined by his wife, Natalia Pereverzeva-Kutsik, two years later, who had traveled with a Canadian passport under the name Patricia Mills. In the US, the couple transmitted encrypted messages to Moscow, in addition to running numerous caches of money. They were arrested at their home in Arlington, Virginia, and immediately confessed to spying on US soil. The former “illegals” were hired by Nikolai Tokarev, a close friend of Putin's, to work for Russia’s oil pipeline monopoly Transneft. Kutsik was appointed director of the bidding department, while his wife was appointed as a PR director.

Mikhail was accommodated in a a “cuckoo» on Moscow's Kulakov Street, while his wife was given an apartment in a business center on Bolshaya Polyanka, where the SVR has a room for secret meetings with their agents. While Kutsik tries to keep a low profile, his wife has become the face of Transneft: she regularly takes part in public presentations and seminars. Former FSB director Sergei Stepashin, now Chairman of the Imperial Orthodox Palestinian Society, presented Pereverzeva-Kutsik with a certificate for her “support” of the society’s events. The ex-spy also received a Mercedes and a Porsche worth 7.5 million roubles ($109,000).

Natalia Pereverzeva-Kutsik
Natalia Pereverzeva-Kutsik

The attitude toward Pereverzeva-Kutsik at Transneft is far from friendly – multiple employees have called her “a pretty schemer” behind her back. When she was transferred to the communications department and fired from her post as PR director, a colleague published a scathing post on LiveJournal: “There will be no more ribbons for several million roubles and they won't dig tree pits in Moscow's parks worth if they were cast of gold.”

The Insider found the addresses of 16 other apartments in various Moscow districts that, for all intents and purposes, resemble “cuckoos”. One of them, on Akademika Bochvara Street in Shchukino, was robbed, with a laptop, hard drive, a set of screwdrivers and 5 thousand roubles (close to $70) being taken from the apartment. The victim turned out to be KGB officer Vladimir Bogoslavsky, a former student of the “illegals program” at the SVR academy.

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