Gevork Vartanian dies at 87; Soviet spy helped derail plot to kill Allied leaders

Gevork Vartanian, a former Soviet intelligence agent who helped derail a Nazi plot to assassinate allied leaders at a 1943 conference in


, has died. He was 87.

Vartanian died Tuesday of an unspecified illness, according to


Foreign Intelligence Service, a top KGB successor agency.


Dmitry Medvedev

sent condolences to Vartanian's widow, Goar, who worked together with him on intelligence missions abroad and helped cement their fame as a legendary Russian spy couple.

Medvedev praised Vartanian as a legendary figure who participated in "brilliant special operations which became part of the history of the nation's foreign intelligence."

The Foreign Intelligence Service said Vartanian, whose father was a Soviet intelligence agent in Tehran posing as a merchant, began working for Soviet intelligence when he turned 16. He played a role in foiling a Nazi plot to assassinate Soviet leader Josef Stalin, U.S. President

Franklin D. Roosevelt

and British Prime Minister

Winston Churchill

when they held a conference in Tehran in November 1943.

Adolf Hitler

ordered operation Long Jump after Nazi intelligence learned of the conference. Vartanian's group shadowed an advance team of Nazi agents, who arrived to set the ground for the mission, helping uncover the plot.

The Foreign Intelligence Service, which goes under its Russian acronym SVR, said that acting on orders from Moscow, Vartanian also joined a British intelligence school in Tehran and obtained information about its graduates sent to the Soviet Union, allowing Soviet authorities to catch them.

The SVR said Vartanian and his wife worked as intelligence agents in several countries between the 1950s and 1986, but didn't name them. They got married several times in different places as part of their cover. The ITAR-Tass news agency said they worked in


, Italy, France and Greece among other nations.

After retiring in 1992, Vartanian helped train young intelligence agents, the SVR said.