Operation HORIZON: A KGB Counterintelligence Operation against the West
Details of Operation HORIZON, a significant espionage operation carried out by the KGB against the West in 1967 and 1968, are revealed in a series of documents translated and analyzed by Filip Kovacevic.
The histories of the KGB published in the West generally tend to emphasize the activities of its foreign intelligence directorate, the First Chief Directorate (PGU).[i] However, original documents from the KGB archive in Lithuania show that there were significant espionage operations in the West conducted by the PGU’s counterintelligence counterpart, the Second Chief Directorate (VGU). One such massive (but still little known) counterintelligence operation planned and carried out by the regional branches of the VGU in the republics of the Soviet Union was Operation HORIZON [Хоризонт] in 1967 and 1968.[ii]
The description of Operation HORIZON presented here is based on two top secret documents produced by the KGB of the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, which I have translated into English for the first time and published on DigitalArchive.org. The first document is the announcement of Operation HORIZON communicated to all branches of the Lithuanian KGB, in particular the 1st Department (tasked with foreign intelligence) and the 2nd Directorate (tasked with counterintelligence), signed by the deputy chairman Colonel V. Konoplenko on April 21, 1967.[iii] This document will be referred to as Document 1.[iv] The second document is the information on the implementation of Operation HORIZON written by one of the branches of the 2nd Directorate (the 4th Department; tasked with counterintelligence activities related to the Federal Republic of Germany) signed by the department chief Colonel Ginko on January 8, 1968.[v] This document will be referred to as Document 2.[vi]
The year 1967 was very significant for both the Soviet Union in general and the KGB in particular.
In November 1967, the Soviet Union celebrated the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. Several months earlier, in May 1967, a new chairman of the KGB was appointed. Nikita Khrushchev’s one-time protégé who later turned against him Vladimir Semichastny was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev’s favorite, Yuri Andropov. Though nobody could have known it at the time, Andropov turned out to be the longest serving chairman of the Soviet state security service and one of the very few whose career did not end in disgrace or death. Andropov’s policies left a lasting impact on many spheres of both Soviet and post-Soviet political and social life in Russia. For instance, most of the present Russian leadership, including the president Vladimir Putin, entered the KGB while Andropov was at the helm.
Though Operation HORIZON was planned before Andropov’s appointment, it is clear that it was a part of the reforms he wanted to make in the functioning of the KGB geared toward centralizing, expanding, and strengthening the state security apparatus.
Document 1 describes Operation HORIZON in general terms and tasks the Lithuanian KGB and its branches with specific counterintelligence tasks. It describes the main purpose of Operation HORIZON as the “specialization and coordination” of counterintelligence units in their fight against what are described as the “subversive activities of the imperialist intelligence agencies.”
Operation HORIZON is presented as the expansion of an earlier operation codenamed Operation 100. While Operation 100 tasked the counterintelligence units of the Lithuanian KGB to work against the intelligence personnel (officers and agents) of the United States, the Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, and Israel, Operation HORIZON expanded its field of activities to include diplomats from Canada, sailors from Germany and Sweden, and specialists (expert workers in Soviet industries) from France and Belgium.
At the same time, it tasked the agents of the Lithuanian KGB to penetrate the “concrete intelligence, ideological and nationalist centers, anti-Soviet emigrant organizations, companies and institutions” abroad. Remarkably, Document 1 included a list of the specific organizations, companies, and institutions chosen as targets. These were the CIA station [резидентура] in Helsinki, the CIA substation [филиал] in Frankfurt on the Main, the CIA substation in West Berlin, the 10th Special Forces Group in Bad Tölz, the SIS station in Helsinki, the General Office of the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) in Munich, the General Office of the BND in Cologne, the Service of Strategic Intelligence of the BND in Hamburg, the Intelligence School of the BND in Bad Ems, the “Wide-World Travel” tourist company in Chicago, the “Hovald-Werke” shipyard in Kiel, the East European Institute in Munich, and the College of St. Casimir in Rome. In addition, the Lithuanian émigré organizations in Germany, including those that brought together the Baltic Germans, were also targeted. The penetration and infiltration of the targets was to be accomplished using several different approaches or “channels”: repatriation (the resettling of Lithuanian Germans in the FRG), private visits to relatives living abroad, and tourism (in both directions).
Document 1 also assigned specific counterintelligence tasks to the particular Lithuanian KGB regional and city counterintelligence units. For instance, the KGB counterintelligence unit in the port city of Klaipeda was to focus on the recruitment of foreign sailors and to use the opportunities provided by the Soviet fishing industry. This aspect of Document 1 highlighted one of the key aims of Operation HORIZON: the specialization on the objects of interests located outside of the Soviet Union and their more precise and intensive targeting.
Operation HORIZON was to be run alongside two earlier domestic-oriented operations which also intensified counterintelligence activities dealing with foreign targets: Operation GEM-2 [Алмаз-2] and Operation RAINBOW [Радуга]. The first operation had to do with the perlustration of foreign mail correspondence going in and out of the Soviet Union,[vii] while the second seems to have involved the counterintelligence activities against suspected foreign intelligence officers and agents in the country itself.
While Document 1 provides the general framework for Operation HORIZON, Document 2 chronicles how its requirements were carried out on the ground. This is an annual (1967) report of the work of the 4th Department of the Lithuanian KGB counterintelligence directorate tasked with counterintelligence activities in the Federal Republic of Germany. It provides a detailed discussion of the activities of the Lithuanian KGB agents in Germany at the time and, from the point of view of intelligence studies research, it is particularly revealing of KGB sources and methods.
Document 2 is divided into four sections:
1. The work with the agents abroad;
2. The training of agents being placed in the FRG as permanent residents;
3. The training of agents set up for recruitment of adversaries (the so-called plants or dangles); and
4. The ‘cultivation’ [разработка][viii] of foreign citizens.
Section 1 provides updates on seven Lithuanian KGB agents living in the FRG codenamed RIMAS, LEONAS, SOSNYAK, DAINA, PATRAS, GELENZHULAS, and SVETLANA, five men and two women. They were all sent to the FRG in the early or mid-1960s with the aim of becoming permanent residents or citizens and spying on the German and other Western government and intelligence institutions, as well as on Lithuanian émigré circles.
Each update makes an interesting read, as they describe how the agents dealt with their tasks and how some were more successful than others. For instance, the agent RIMAS is described as being on the cusp of penetrating the Office of the BND in Hamburg, while the agent LEONAS seems to be bogged down in family issues and can hardly do any work for the KGB. The most promising agent appears to be a woman codenamed DAINA, a repatriated Lithuanian German, who has obtained a position at Radio Liberty in Munich (one of the main sources of “ideological diversions” as defined by the KGB). However, Document 2 states that DAINA has yet to be fully integrated into the KGB espionage network and begin providing useful information.
Also interesting is the case of the husband and wife agents GELENZHULAS and SVETLANA who were able to get jobs at a “place of interest to Soviet intelligence,” but, just like DAINA, have not sent anything worthwhile to the headquarters yet. According to Document 2, their KGB handlers expected to arrange a meeting with them when they came back to Lithuania to visit relatives in 1968.
Section 2 of the document provides the information on six Lithuanian KGB agents who were in the process of training to be sent to the FRG to seek permanent resident status there. Most of them were ethnic Germans who would enter the FRG on the basis of repatriation or to join close relatives already living there. One of the agents, codenamed ALFRED, had already been sent to the FRG where he was about to play the role of a dangle to the US intelligence. However, according to Document 2, it was yet to be seen whether ALFRED would have any success, though he did appear to have made some steps in the “right” direction.
This section also notes the existence of the active recruitment efforts for new agents by the regional and city branches of the Lithuanian KGB. According to the information provided, the KGB units in Lithuania were considering (“studying”) close to 30 people for possible recruitment as agents in the FRG. All this shows that the agent-related activities in the Lithuanian KGB functioned on the principle of the assembly line: there was a constant, unceasing circulation of persons at the different stages of “cultivation.”
Section 3 focuses more closely on the process of training false defectors or plants. This indicates that false defectors (persons pretending to betray the Soviet cause but actually trained to be double agents) played a very significant role in the overall Lithuanian KGB counterintelligence activities. According to Document 2, the majority of agents in this category were (first) sent on short-term visits to the FRG.
One of them whose codename is missing, which is probably a sign of his top secret status, seems to have been a dancer or an opera singer (his contact in the FRG was codenamed BALLERINA), while the other whose codename is also missing was either an athlete or a coach. In this category, there were also two women agents known as LISA and ERNA. Both had relatives in the FRG (LISA in Darmstadt and ERNA in Hamburg) who were active in the Lithuanian émigré circles, and both used their time socializing to signal that they would be willing to carry out intelligence tasks for the Western intelligence services. ERNA, for instance, was instructed by her KGB handlers to indicate that she was able to meet clandestinely with West German sailors visiting the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda.
In this section, there is also a remark that the Lithuanian KGB counterintelligence units actively used the mail correspondence of their agents with relatives in the FRG to plant false information that might attract the interest of Western intelligence services and disinform them regarding the intentions and capabilities of the Soviet Union.
The last section of Document 2 deals with the “cultivation” of foreign citizens. Four cases are described, and they all deal with the citizens of the FRG, two men and two women. One of the cases refers to what looks like the real last name of a woman who repatriated from Lithuania in the late 1950s. By 1967, she became a professional translator from the Russian language based in Munich and was sometimes employed by the German officials during the visits of Soviet delegations. Apparently, the Lithuanian KGB intended to try to recruit her on her planned visit to Vilnius. With this aim in mind, it is noted that the steps were taken to ‘study’ her Lithuanian contacts in order to recruit them as agents before her visit.
These two documents provide a fascinating inside view into the functioning of the KGB counterintelligence in Lithuania in the context of the Second Chief Directorate (VGU) Operation HORIZON. They describe both the general policy approach and the ground-level implementation. They show that, in addition to the PGU, the VGU was also an important player in KGB operations outside of the Soviet Union and that the regional KGB branches were actively involved in those efforts. They had their own home-grown agent networks engaged in counterintelligence activities against the Western targets abroad.
The records show in particular that the Lithuanian KGB had a very strong and well-developed agent network in the Federal Republic of Germany and was actively instructed by the Moscow Center to expand it even further. The recruitment efforts of these agents as well as the classified information supplied by them provided an important contribution to the overall Soviet intelligence and counterintelligence strategy against the West.
[i] Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB (New York: Basic Books, 1999); Christopher Andrew & Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story of Its Foreign Operations from Lenin to Gorbachev (New York: Harper & Collins, 1990); Peter Deriabin and T. H. Bagley, KGB: Masters of the Soviet Union (New York: Hippocrene Books, 1990).
[ii] The Operation Horizon described here is different from the operation with the same name conducted by the Communist Romanian foreign intelligence service described by the defector Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa in his revelatory book Red Horizons: Chronicles of A Communist Spy Chief (Washington DC: Regnery Gateway, 1987).
[iii] Colonel Vasily A. Konoplenko was the deputy chief of the Lithuanian KGB from April 1961 until June 1968. He later worked in the Second Chief Directorate Headquarters in Moscow. See “The Leadership of the KGB of the Lithuanian SSR,” http://shieldandsword.mozohin.ru/kgb5491/terr_org/respublik/litva.htm. The top secret KGB in-house journal Сборник [Review] published in 1986 a short review article written by Konoplenko and another KGB officer and cited his rank as that of Major General. See Maj. Gen. V. Konoplenko and Col. V. Kurabko, “Из опыта борьбы с агентурной деятельностью вражеских разведок [From the Experience Gained in the Fight against the Activities of Enemy Agents], Сборник, Vol. 110 (1986), pp. 72-75. Konoplenko’s partial biography (until his move to Moscow) can be found at http://www.kgbveikla.lt/lt/vasilijus-konoplenko.
[iv] “Совершено секретно: начальнику 1 отдела и начальникам отделов 2 управления КГБ при СОВЕТЕ МИНИСТРОВ ЛИТОВСКОЙ ССР [Top Secret: To the Chief of the 1st Department and the Department Chiefs of the 2nd Directorate of the KGB of the Council of Ministers of the Lithuanian SSR], April 28, 1967, Lithuanian Special Archives, f. K-41, ap. 1, b. 660, ll. 197-202, first published by The Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, http://www.kgbveikla.lt/docs/show/5291/from:664.
[v] Colonel Valery A. Ginko was the deputy chief of the 2nd Directorate of the Lithuanian KGB from September 1967 until December 1974. See “The Leadership of the 2nd Directorate of the KGB of the Lithuanian SSR,” http://shieldandsword.mozohin.ru/kgb5491/terr_org/respublik/litva/2.htm. Ginko’s biography and his photo can be found at http://www.kgbveikla.lt/lt/valerijus-ginko.
[vi] “Секретно: СПРАВКА о работе 4 отдела 2 управления по подготовке и проведению чекистких мероприятиях против спецслужб ФРГ с контрразведывательных позиций за 1967 год [Secret: INFORMATION about the Work of the 4th Department of the 2nd Directorate on the Preparation and Implementation of the Chekist Active Measures against the Intelligence Services of the FRG from Counterintelligence Positions in 1967], January 8, 1968, Lithuanian Special Archives, f. K-41, ap. 1, b. 660, l. 42-52, first published by The Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania, https://www.kgbdocuments.eu/documents/the-certificate-of-the-2nd-department-of-the-kgb-of-the-lssr-on-counterintelligence-work-against-intelligence-agencies-of-the-western-germany/.
[vii] Aleksandr Sever, История КГБ [History of the KGB] (Moscow: Algoritm, 2008), p. 69 (in the e-book).
[viii] The KGB Counterintelligence Dictionary defines разработка as “the process of the all-round covert study of the persons, groups, organizations and institutions of the adversary, which are of interest to the state security services.” See Контраразведывательный словарь (Moscow: The Felix Dzerzhinsky Higher School of the KGB, 1972), p. 274.
About the Author
Filip Kovacevic is a researcher of Russian and East European state security and intelligence organizations. He teaches at the University of San Francisco, and runs "The Chekist Monitor," a blog on the operations and personalities of the Soviet and Russian state security and intelligence organizations.Read More
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