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The Guardian: Russian intelligence recruited Trump for 40 years

The KGB "played this game as if his personality made a huge impression on them," said The Guardian Yuri Shvets, key source of information for the new book by journalist Craig Unger.

Photo: Shutterstock

Donald Trump has been "worked as an asset" in Russia for over 40 years, a former KGB spy said.

Yuri Shvets, sent to Washington by the Soviet Union in the 1980s, compares the former US president to the Cambridge Five, a British spy network that passed secrets to Moscow during World War II and the early Cold War.

Shvets, 67, is a key source for the American book Compromising, a new work by journalist Craig Unger, whose previous works include The Trump House and The Putin House. The book also explores the former president's relationship with the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.

“This is an example when people were hired as students and then they took important positions; something similar happened to Trump, ”Shvets said over the phone from his home in Virginia.

Shvets, a KGB major, worked as a correspondent for the Russian news agency TASS in Washington in the 1980s. In 1993, he moved to the United States permanently and received American citizenship. He works as a corporate security investigator and was a partner of Alexander Litvinenko, who was killed in London in 2006.

Unger describes how Trump first appeared on Russians' radars in 1977, when he married Czech model Ivan Zelnichkova. Trump became the target of an espionage operation controlled by the Czechoslovak secret service in cooperation with the KGB.

Three years later, Trump opened his first major real estate project, the Grand Hyatt New York hotel near Grand Central Station. He bought 200 televisions for the hotel from Semyon Kislin, a Soviet émigré and co-owner of the Joy-Lud electronics store on Fifth Avenue.

According to Shvets, Joy-Lud was controlled by the KGB, and Kislin worked as a so-called "spotter agent" who identified Trump, a young businessman on the rise, as a potential "asset." Kislin denies any KGB connection.

On the subject: An American in the USSR kept a diary about the country, and the KGB wrote down his every step: now the texts can be compared

In 1987, Trump and Ivana visited Moscow and St. Petersburg for the first time. Shvets said Trump was being “fed” with KGB talk and was flattered by KGB operatives who suggested that he should go into politics.

“For the KGB, it was a charm attack. They collected a lot of information about his personality, so they knew what kind of person he was. There was a feeling that he was extremely vulnerable intellectually and psychologically, and prone to flattery, - recalled the ex-major. - That's what they used. They played the game as if they were extremely impressed with his personality, as if they believed that this is the guy who should one day become the President of the United States: people like him can change the world. They fed him these so-called active soundbeat measures and it happened. So it was a great achievement for the active KGB at the time. "

Soon after returning to the United States, Trump began to explore the Republican nomination for president and even held a campaign rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He bought back strips for his political ads in the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. The ad expressed highly non-standard views of America in the Cold War under Ronald Reagan, accusing the allied Japan of exploiting the United States and expressing skepticism about US involvement in NATO. He chose the form of an open letter to the American people in the spirit of "why America should stop paying to protect countries that can afford to defend themselves."

This caused surprise and jubilation in Russia, the newspaper notes. A few days later, Shvets, who by this time had returned home, was at the headquarters of the first KGB headquarters in Yasenevo, when he received a telegram in which a successful "active measure" was being carried out by the new KGB agent.

“It was unprecedented. I am fairly familiar with active KGB measures from the early 70s and 80s, and then with active measures by Russia, and I did not hear anything like this until Trump became the president of this country. It was hard to believe that someone would publish him under his name and that he would impress real serious people in the West, but it happened, and finally, this guy became president, ”said Shvets.

Trump's victory in the 2016 election was once again welcomed in Moscow. Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller did not establish collusion between Trump campaigners and the Russians. But the Moscow Project, an American Progress Action Foundation initiative, found that the Trump campaign and transition team had at least 272 known contacts and at least 38 known meetings with Russian-linked operatives.

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Shvets, who conducted his own investigation, said: “For me, the Mueller report was a great disappointment, because people expected it to be a thorough investigation of all the links between Trump and Moscow, although in reality what we received was an investigation only on issues, related to crime. There were no counterintelligence aspects in the relationship between Trump and Moscow. "

“So I did my investigation and then I met with Craig. Therefore, we believe that his book will continue where Mueller left off, ”he said.

Unger, author of seven books and former editor of Vanity Fair magazine, said of Trump: “He was an asset. It was not a grandiose, brilliant plan, according to which they were going to develop him, so that in 40 years he would become president. At the time it started, around 1980, the Russians tried to recruit like crazy, persecuting dozens and dozens of people. "

“Trump was an ideal target in many ways: his vanity and narcissism made him a natural target for recruiting. He was “processed” for 40 years, right up to his election, ”he added.

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