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Oleg Gordievsky the MI6 spy who helped prevent nuclear war

Russian double agent Oleg Gordievsky is the subject of a new book by  The Times writer, Ben Macintyre. ‘The Spy and the Traitor’ reveals how Oleg Gordievsky reported the Russian leadership’s growing paranoia to MI6 which influenced Ronald Reagan’s public softening to the USSR. It was thought that planned American military rehearsals in the 1980s could be misinterpreted by Moscow as a sign of imminent nuclear attack that nudged the world closer to the brink of war. It appears Gordievsky played a crucial role in preventing that war and paving the way for improved relations between the west and Russia. The book details the nerve-shredding escape of Gorievsky to London in 1986 where he still lives under constant police protection.

No surrender. Double agent, Oleg Gordievsky escaped Russia to live in London. ©Michael Powell /


In 1993 The Times commissioned me to photograph Oleg Gordievsky during and after a very rare interview. The location was only revealed at the last moment and I floated around the West End of London awaiting the address. Eventually, a hotel room was chosen and plain clothes (and presumably armed) officers kept a discreet but watchful eye on me throughout the interview.

Relations between Moscow and London may have improved considerably under President Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost but Gordievsky was (and still is) a marked man. There are many Russian agents that still considered him a traitor. In recent years there have been a number of apparent murders and attempted murders of ex Russians nationals living in the UK including the poisoned Alexander Litvinenko and double agent, Sergie Skripal who survived Novichok poisoning in Salisbury in March 2018.

Ben Macintyre’s book ‘The Spy and the Traitor’ is published by Penguin Randon House.