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Unsafe house: A closer look at the backgrounds and life stories of the tenants of a covert Moscow SVR residence

On the 20th of December, Russia commemorates the Day of Foreign Intelligence. Within the hallowed confines of the SVR headquarters in Moscow's Yasenevo, a grand convocation shall unfold. Here, the maestro of the intelligence realm, Sergey Naryshkin, will regale with pride the sagas of Russian spymasters—chronicles of valor and the quotidian. It appears that the lights will burn late into the night at House No. 5 on Goncharnaya Street in Moscow, better known as the “Residents' House.” Most of the residents of the secret house are or have been part of the leadership of the SVR, and their children have now become top managers of Russian state corporations. The Insider has curated a selection of the most intriguing life stories.

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Content
  • “The Indian Mafia”

  • “The Europeans”

  • The “Middle-Easters” et al

This place used to be called Vshivaya Gorka, then Goncharnaya Sloboda. Later, they named the street after Volodarsky, a revolutionary killed in 1918. In 1991, they changed it back to Goncharnaya. To build the “residents' house,” the former mansion of the merchant Grachyov had to be demolished. SU-155 was in charge of the construction, and workers were told to tell the curious that there would be a museum here. In 1998, an accident occurred—a hired worker from the Ivanovo region, Stanislav Krasilnikov, fell from a height and died.

Guidebooks about Moscow mention the house on Goncharnaya: “It is an original building with many architectural embellishments. One part of the building is two-story with an attic, the other has an extension of two tiers. Above the entrance on the facade is a projection with an arched base, a balcony, and a pediment with a small arched window adorned with a lock stone. The crowning cornice has a volumetric round shape and effectively emphasizes the architectural ensemble.”

“The Indian Mafia”

At the time of the construction of the house in 1999, the majority of the residents held key positions in the central apparatus of the Foreign Intelligence Service and had previously served in the Indian residency. One of the first to secure an elite 103.3 m² apartment was the then-director of the SVR, Vyacheslav Trubnikov. For several years, under the guise of a journalist for AP Novosti, he spied in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal, demonstrating commendable operational performance in recruiting local politicians and journalists. Through his agency in these countries, the “newsman” organized anti-American protests and fed journalists with fakes about secret CIA laboratories allegedly creating AIDS. His active propagation of disinformation was noticed, and he was transferred to the central apparatus of the First Main Directorate of the KGB, where he took charge of the Asian direction.

After the failed coup in August 1991, Trubnikov quieted down, likely fearing reprisals. However, he quickly realized that no purge of the Chekists was imminent and began giving numerous interviews. Moreover, in 1992, he was appointed First Deputy Director of the SVR, and in 1996, he assumed leadership of foreign intelligence. Many on Stary Arbat were surprised by this appointment at the time since Trubnikov did not conceal his disdain for President Boris Yeltsin and his circle. He even went so far as to label the Foreign Minister, Andrey Kozyrev, as almost a CIA agent. In 2000, Putin started placing his acquaintances in key positions in the intelligence services, and the head of the SVR position was taken by Sergey Lebedev, who had served in Germany and the United States. Trubnikov was initially seconded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later appointed as an ambassador to India. The Indian authorities, mindful of his espionage history, resisted the appointment for a while but eventually yielded.

One of the leading figures in British intelligence, a communist, has been an agent of Soviet intelligence since 1933.

Vyacheslav Trubnikov
Vyacheslav Trubnikov

By the way, to this day, appointees of Trubnikov from the “Indian Mafia” continue to serve in the SVR. For example, Alexander Zabolotny sits in the central apparatus of the SVR, and until recently, Sergei Borovik was spying under the “cover” of a counsellor at the Russian embassy in New Delhi.

Following in Trubnikov's footsteps in the Residents' House, another veteran of foreign intelligence, SVR General Alexander Medyanik, secured a three-bedroom apartment (123.1 m²). His father, Yakov Medyanik, was known as Trubnikov's “godfather.” It was he who noticed the energetic officer in the Bangladeshi residency, transferred him to the central apparatus of the First Main Directorate of the KGB, and then facilitated his career growth. The junior Medyanik was often referred to as a major general, and when Putin disbanded the “Indian Mafia,” he was removed from the position of SVR deputy director and sent to the Ministry of Federation and Nationalities Affairs. In his new role, the major general was rarely seen, engaged in drinking, and once got into a brawl with Minister Alexander Blokhin. As Anna Politkovskaya wrote, “the minister, famous for his athletic figure and robust build, however, resisted—and a scuffle ensued, complete with smashing souvenirs within arm's reach.” Medyanik was promptly dismissed, and as a farewell gesture, he broke the sign on the ministry building. Medyanik's son, Sergei, graduated from the Diplomatic Academy and worked at Rossotrudnichestvo for a while.

The neighbor of the rowdy Medyanik turned out to be another deputy director of the SVR, Gennady Novikov (213.7 m²). He also spied in the Indian residency and owes his career to Trubnikov. Novikov's son, Maxim, worked in the Russian department of JP Morgan Chase International, and later in Rosoboronexport. After the high-profile resignation of Anatoly Serdyukov, his friends were being purged from state corporations, and Maxim, who was friends with the disgraced defense minister, was asked to leave Rosoboronexport. However, with the help of Novikov's connections, Maxim found a position as senior vice president at VTB.

Another resident of Vshivaya Gorka, General Mikhail Sokov (101.7 m²), spied in Pakistan and was part of Trubnikov's team. In 2006, the “Pakistani” retired but managed to arrange things for his sons. He placed his older son, Dmitry, in Sibur with the oligarch Leonid Mikhelson, while the younger son, Maxim, completed his education in the USA, attending the private Loyola Marymount University and the law faculty at New York University School of Law. He went on to work for one of the entities owned by Oleg Deripaska. In 2011, during a visit to the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric power plant, Putin reprimanded Deripaska for his top managers' excessive financial appetites. Maxim Sokov also faced consequences for demanding a multimillion-dollar compensation after his dismissal from OGK-3. In 2018, the overly audacious Sokov Jr., who was then the president of En+ Group Plc, faced another setback: he had to voluntarily resign so that Deripaska could avoid US Treasury sanctions.

One of the leading figures in British intelligence, a communist, has been an agent of Soviet intelligence since 1933.

Maxim Sokov
Maxim Sokov

It's essential to note that the bygone era when Russian intelligence navigated India with a sense of familiarity has long since concluded. In the present day, indigenous counterintelligence meticulously observes the every move of Russian diplomats, with surveillance vehicles maintaining a constant presence around the embassy, vigilant day and night.

“The Europeans”

The coveted square meters were also bestowed upon the legends of espionage from European residencies. Take, for instance, Lieutenant General Grigory Rapota of the SVR, who spied in the USA, Sweden, and Finland, and his wife, Tatiana Samolis, who operated in the same countries under the guise of a correspondent for the newspaper “Pravda” (88.0 m²). Rapota is regarded as one of the finest disciples of the super-mole Kim Philby , who served Soviet intelligence for over half a century; he attended Philby's clandestine seminars in an apartment on Tryokhprudny Lane.

One of the leading figures in British intelligence, a communist, has been an agent of Soviet intelligence since 1933.

Grigory Rapota
Grigory Rapota

In 1998, Rapota transitioned from the SVR to Rosoboronexport, later holding positions as the Deputy Minister of Trade, Plenipotentiary Representative in the Southern and Volga Federal Districts, and the Secretary of the Union State of Russia and Belarus. In May 2021, the former spy was appointed as a member of the Federation Council from the Kursk region, but the following year saw the ignominious end of his international career—he fell under sanctions from the US, UK, and EU. Rapota's son, Maxim, previously worked at Vnesheconombank, where nearly every third employee has an officer rank. Later, his father arranged a position for him at Rostec.

The elite living space in the secret residence (127 m²) was also awarded to the longtime head of the Balkan residency of the SVR, Leonid Reshetnikov. General Reshetnikov is familiar to readers of The Insider because of his significant involvement in the failed coup in Montenegro, planned for October 2016. The authorities of the republic preempted the conspirators, which included Serbs, pro-Kremlin Cossacks, the local branch of the Night Wolves, and GRU officers. Upon their arrest, weapons, brass knuckles, fake uniforms of Montenegrin police, €122,000 in cash, and equipment for encrypted telecommunications were discovered. A loud scandal erupted, and to resolve the situation, Secretary of the Security Council Nikolai Patrushev urgently flew to Belgrade. After his visit, several Russians were deported back to their homeland.

General Reshetnikov was also forced into retirement, at the time occupying the position of the director of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), the so-called intellectual center of the SVR. After the scandal, he ventured into the businesses sponsored by the Orthodox oligarch Konstantin Malofeev (also involved in the failed coup). Currently, Reshetnikov heads the department of history and historical archive studies at the Moscow State Institute of Culture. “Ukraine is fundamentally a project of external forces hostile to historical Russia, implemented by Austria-Hungary and Imperial Germany,” he shares in his lectures.

The younger daughter of General Alexander Mayorov studied at the school attached to the USSR embassy in Sofia, then graduated from the FSB Academy, and now, according to some sources, serves in the “Bulgarian” department of the 5th Service of the FSB. The elder daughter, Elena, leads the patriotic project “Russian Lemnos” and is part of the management of the charitable foundation Heritage. Lemnos is a Greek island in the Aegean Sea, where until 2021, Russian schoolchildren were brought, and stories about the fearsome Anglo-Saxons, who only dreamed of conquering Russia, were told. Now, however, entry to Europe is closed, and events take place in various cities in Russia. For instance, in February 2023, a lecture titled “Banderite Myths in the Struggle Against Russia” was held at the Museum of Emperor Nicholas II for cadets, Young Army members, and schoolchildren. These gatherings are funded by the Presidential Grants Fund, and part of the money likely comes from the same oligarch, Malofeev.

One of the leading figures in British intelligence, a communist, has been an agent of Soviet intelligence since 1933.

General Reshetnikov with his daughter Elena
General Reshetnikov with his daughter Elena

The then head of the Information Department of the SVR, General Valery Rozanov, celebrated his housewarming in a four-bedroom apartment (161.4 m²). He was hailed as the best analyst of the PGU KGB, and his predictions were heeded not only by the leadership of Soviet intelligence but also by the Central Committee of the CPSU. In contemporary times, Rozanov plays the role of a sort of political seer, but his forecasts never come to fruition. For instance, in 2012, he predicted that Putin had a plan to transfer power to the speaker of the Federation Council, Valentina Matviyenko. Allegedly, with the help of Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin would provoke mass riots in the country, NATO countries and UN peacekeepers would secure major cities and nuclear facilities, and then Matviyenko would emerge and declare herself president. After the onset of aggression against Ukraine, analyst Rozanov launched the theme on social media: “The CIA has deployed a network of units in Ukraine to conduct psyops and information warfare against Russians.”

Rozanov's son, Vsevolod, worked as a managing partner at AFK Sistema under Vladimir Yevtushenkov, and as a member of the Board of Directors at Norilsk Nickel; in 2022, he joined the Board of Directors of PJSC WHOOSH Holding (the holding company for the kicksharing operator Whoosh). Rozanov's grandson, Fyodor, is studying at the Moscow School of Economics according to the University of London curriculum.

Nikolai Gribin, a former resident of the PGU KGB in Denmark, moved in an apartment on the third floor (104.5 m²). After his stint abroad, he headed the 3rd European Directorate, which supervised the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the Scandinavian countries. In 1985, Gribin was removed from his position because he missed Oleg Gordievsky, who was working for British intelligence, in the London residency. However, Gribin continued to serve in the central apparatus of the PGU KGB in Yasenevo, and in 1994, already in “democratic” Russia, he was appointed the head of the Academy of Foreign Intelligence. The former spy's most recent position is the director of the Center for European Studies at the Institute of International Studies at MGIMO.

Also, the owner of an elite apartment is the former KGB resident in Ottawa, General Sergei Labur (109.4 m²). Suspicions among many staff members at the Canadian residency hinted that Resident Labur, under the pretext of secret messages from agents, transmitted to the Center information drawn from local newspapers. Nevertheless, Labur found favor with the influential KGB Chairman Vladimir Kryuchkov, who eventually appointed him as the head of the American department. Labur's son, Alexander, embarked on a career at the Science Park of Moscow State University, while his granddaughter, Katrina, secured a position in the Russian division of the American pharmaceutical company MSD. After the attack on Ukraine, MSD shut down all investment projects in Russia.

The “Middle-Easters” et al

Several elite apartments were allocated to individuals from the Middle Eastern residencies of the PGU KGB. In one of these apartments (79.1 m²), General Bolatbek Dzhetpysbaev has taken residence. He spied in Jordan and held the position of deputy resident for political intelligence. After the collapse of the USSR, Dzhetpysbaev led the Middle Eastern direction in Yasenevo and supervised an illegal network in Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Israel.

Another officer from the Middle East, Rostislav Yushchuk (82.2 m²), served as the resident of the KGB's First Main Directorate (PGU) in Amman. Later, he was transferred to the central apparatus of foreign intelligence, where he oversaw Israel, Lebanon, and Syria. In 1992, he became an 'open' resident of the SVR in London, focusing more on public relations and arranging restaurant gatherings for delegations from Moscow. After his retirement, Yushchuk joined the leadership of the charitable foundation Russian Intellectual Property and later became a consultant for major firms in business intelligence matters.

Among all former spies, Colonel Yuri Zevakin received the smallest apartment, measuring 69.0 m². In 1983, he spied in Paris, posing as a secretary at the permanent representation of the USSR to UNESCO. However, he was exposed by French counterintelligence and declared persona non grata. “The Parisian” was reassigned to the central apparatus of the PGU KGB in the 'T' Directorate. After the dissolution of the USSR, he assumed the position of the head of the Scientific and Technical Intelligence Directorate of the SVR.

One of the leading figures in British intelligence, a communist, has been an agent of Soviet intelligence since 1933.

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