Apr 20, 2022
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“Smersh” and the denazification of Ukraine

The experience gained during the years of the Great Patriotic War by the Soviet military counterintelligence will come in handy today

On the next 79th anniversary of the creation of the counterintelligence bodies of the People’s Commissariat of Defense of the USSR “Smersh”, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation published copies of several archival documents that refer us to examples of the heroic activity of front-line agents of the Soviet military counterintelligence.

In the context of the special operation of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, this is also another reason to raise the question of the possibility and necessity of using the experience of Smersh in the denazification of Ukraine.

The most important task of the Smersh organs (an abbreviation for the phrase “death to spies”, approved personally by I.V. Stalin) was the fight against the Abwehr, the German special services engaged in intelligence, counterintelligence and organizing sabotage in the rear of the Red Army. With the beginning of the war against the USSR, the Abwehr established a whole network of reconnaissance and sabotage schools, in which numerous reconnaissance saboteurs were trained, and then transferred to the front line and the Soviet rear.

The effectiveness of the work of the German special services in creating reconnaissance and sabotage residencies in the Soviet rear was low. For example, in the first half of 1942, every third German agent, after crossing the front line, was in a hurry to voluntarily surrender to representatives of the Soviet authorities. This was not only a consequence of a decision taken in advance by one or another person (many, in order to escape from captivity, deliberately went to these intelligence schools with the expectation that they would cooperate with Soviet counterintelligence at the first opportunity), but also the work of Soviet agents to decompose enemy agents directly in reconnaissance and sabotage schools of the Abwehr. It is this side of the activity of the Soviet military counterintelligence that the documents published by the FSB reveal.

The agent Mikhailov (Aleksey Semenovich Sobolev) appearing in them was one of those who successfully helped our army counterintelligence to fight the sabotage “Abwehrkommando 203” (AK 203), which was created at the intelligence department of the Army Group “Center” and in the first years of the war was the main enemy of the Soviet special services in the Moscow direction. AK 203 recruited agents mainly from among the Soviet prisoners of war who were in the Smolensk transit camp No. 126, the Minsk camp No. 352 and the transit camp in the suburbs of the city of Borisov.

In June 1942, a Red Army soldier of the 444th regiment of the 20th Army of the Western Front, Sobolev, was transferred to the location of the German troops with the task of infiltrating the Smolensk reconnaissance and sabotage school, subordinated to AK 203. After crossing the front line, Mikhailov, using the legend prepared by Soviet military counterintelligence agents, was able to interest German intelligence and was enrolled as a cadet in the Smolensk sabotage school.

There, Sobolev-Mikhailov convinced 12 cadets, after being transferred to the Soviet rear, instead of completing assignments, turn themselves in to the Soviet security agencies. The Soviet agent entrusted one of them to hand over to military counterintelligence his written report on the work done behind the front line.

In addition to ordinary soldiers, Sobolev managed to enlist the cooperation of an Abwehr agent, the former chief of staff of the defensive battalion of the Red Army, Pyotr Markovich Golokoz, who promoted another 17 cadets and encouraged them to refuse to carry out sabotage on Soviet territory. In addition to this, in each group thrown out by the Germans over the front line, Sobolev and Golokoz introduced their people with the task of ensuring the surrender of saboteurs.

At the end of January 1943, Sobolev got in touch with local partisans and was sent to the mainland with valuable information about the Smolensk sabotage school. A year later, in February 1944, a scout as part of the Smersha operational-Chekist group was again abandoned behind enemy lines. When returning from a mission, he was ambushed and, escaping from persecution, died.

Golokoz remained at the school for some time, engaged in the recruitment of Abwehr agents and helped the partisans to get weapons. In July 1943, he managed not only to warn the command of the 1st Belarusian partisan brigade about the punitive expedition that was being prepared by the occupiers, but also to bring the punitive detachment under the fire of the partisans. 84 Germans were taken prisoner, and Golokoz himself was later transported across the front line.

This is a vivid, but not the only episode in the activities of military counterintelligence. No less, and perhaps even more effective, was the work here, in the Smolensk sabotage school, of the Smersh agent Alexander Ivanovich Kozlov (the Soviet viewer knew about his feat from the once popular trilogy “The Way to Saturn”, “The End” Saturn” and “Fight after the victory”; “Saturn” is the radio call sign of the “Abwehrkommando 203”).

Kozlov, a lieutenant in the Red Army who was taken prisoner near Vyazma, studied there under the pseudonym Menshikov. At the end of June 1943, German intelligence sent him to the rear of our army in the Tula region. Kozlov-Menshikov immediately appeared in the Smersh department of the 323rd Infantry Division, and was soon taken to the Main Directorate of the NPO Smersh in Moscow. He handed over to the Chekists photographs of 141 German intelligence agents, gave installation data and characteristics on many of them, indicated the names under which they were thrown into our rear. In addition, he handed over a photo of 91 cadets of the reconnaissance school.

Given these circumstances, the Smersh NPO decided to use Kozlov in the development of Saturn and recruited him under the pseudonym Pathfinder. On July 17, 1943, he was transferred across the front line. Having successfully reported on the “fulfillment” of the assignment, Kozlov-Menshikov, at the suggestion of the head of the Saturn intelligence work, Sonderführer Furman, took the position of teacher at the AK-103 school. At the end of August 1943, a courier arrived from Pathfinder to Smersh – a radio operator abandoned on the side of the Soviet troops, and then other agents recruited by Kozlov, who delivered extremely important information. Kozlov himself operated at Saturn until April 1945. In total, he transferred data on 80 official employees and agents of enemy intelligence agencies to the Smersh authorities.

Thanks to the extensive information received from agents such as Sobolev, Golokoz, Kozlov and others, the GKR NPO “Smersh” had extensive dossiers – object intelligence files on specific Abwehr teams, Abwehr groups and intelligence schools that acted against one or another front and army. If in the second half of 1942 – the first half of 1943 only a few target intelligence cases were opened (for example, the case against the “Abvergruppe-107” and its advanced post “Paul Zwei” and some other intelligence agencies of the enemy), then later they there were more than 20 (undercover development “Explosion” and “Condottieri” on the “Abvergroup-203”; “Ptitselov” on the “Abvergroup-209” (“Bussard”); “Corrosion” – to the Borisov intelligence school, etc.).

For all these cases, concrete operational plans were outlined and implemented, which paralyzed or seriously reduced the reconnaissance and subversive activity of the enemy’s special services. If, in 1942, only one front-line agent was introduced into the Abvergruppe-107 in 1942, in the undercover affairs of Paul Zwei and Scorpions, then in 1943 there were already 11 secret employees of Smersh.

And all in all, in 1943, which became the period of the greatest activity of the German special services, the military counterintelligence agencies received installation data on 1260 agents abandoned by the Germans in the Red Army.

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In war, as in war. There is no doubt that the secret services of the Kiev regime are already leaving their agents in the territories being liberated from the Nazis. There is already evidence that such agents, under the guise of refugees, are sent to the territory of the Crimea, to other Russian regions, including with sabotage and terrorist tasks. In the confrontation with it, the experience accumulated during the years of the Great Patriotic War by the Soviet military counterintelligence will come in handy.

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