A top-level Soviet spy in North Africa has defected and is in the United States telling U.S. officials about Soviet operations in Arab countries, intelligence community sources said today.
Oleg Agraniants, an official of the Soviet KGB, "basically walked into the U.S. Embassy in Tunis a month ago and defected," said one source.
The sources, who asked not to be identified by name, said Agraniants was assigned to the Soviet Embassy in Tunis, where his cover job was as the No. 3 official in the Soviet delegation.
Agraniants has been brought to the United States for detailed interrogation, the sources said.
Stung last year by the unusual case of Vitaly Yurchenko, the KGB defector who returned to the Soviets, U.S. intelligence officials are disclosing, even privately, little information about Agraniants.
At this early stage in Agraniants' interrogation, he is believed to be a genuine defector and not a double-agent planted by the Soviet Union. "There is no indication that he is anything other than what he appears to be," one source said.
NBC Nightly News, which first reported the defection, said Agraniants had supplied names of Soviet agents in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Libya.