British intelligence questioned Soviet defector Oleg Gordievski in a countryside safehouse today while Britain expressed surprise that Denmark had revealed him to be a double agent working for the West.
Britain announced on Thursday the defection of Gordievski and swiftly ordered the expulsion of 25 Soviet diplomats, reporters and others whom Gordievski identified as KGB spies.
British government sources said Gordievski was being questioned by British intelligence in the countryside after it was disclosed that he had actually been a double agent for the West for years.
Specialists from other NATO countries are likely to be given their turn later with the defector.
New Identity in Months
It could be months before he is provided with a new identity, funds and protection, probably far from Britain. Canada has been Britain’s favorite place to send defectors, although most Russians prefer the United States.
Danish Justice Minister Erik Ninn Hansen said Gordievski became a double agent when he was stationed in Copenhagen in the early 1970s and provided “extremely important” information to the West.
For more than a decade, he remained undetected and rose through the ranks of the Soviet diplomatic corps and the KGB. In 1982, he was posted to the Soviet Embassy in London as chief of KGB operations.
In making the announcement of the defection, the British did not disclose that Gordievski had been a double agent, and today an official British source expressed surprise that Denmark’s justice minister disclosed the information, saying “that just makes Moscow’s job of assessing the damage easier.”
The British also denied suggestions they had simply inherited Gordievski as a double agent from the Danes.
“It’s more complicated than that,” the source said.
He also denied reports that Gordievski defected for women, drugs or money or that he feared being unmasked by former West German counterspy chief Hans Joachim Tiedge, who fled to East Germany on Aug. 19.
Gordievski actually fled the Soviet Embassy and took refuge with the British six or seven weeks ago, ruling out the possibility that Tiedge’s defection three weeks ago could have played a role in his own defection, a source said.
$300,000 in Cash Reported
The Daily Mirror said Gordievski, who left his wife and daughter behind in Moscow, defected for $330,000 in cash, a car, a salary for life and because he had marital troubles and had fallen in love with the British life style.
The British source rejected that report and said, “He defected for reasons of principle.”
But he refused to say why the head of the KGB operation in London left a post that would be invaluable to the West.
Meanwhile, the British government braced for Soviet retaliation for the expulsion of the 25 Soviets and prepared possible countermoves if Moscow throws out even one Briton, official sources said.
“The odds are they will retaliate,” the source said. “In the past we have counterretaliated and that is possible again.”