Britain’s oldest traitor, George Blake, who claimed to have betrayed 600 agents to the Russians, died in Moscow at the age of 98.
The turncoat, who had relocated to the Soviet Union, had lived in Russia since escaping from Wormwood Scrubs Prison in 1966.
George Blake was honored for his service by the Soviet UnionPhoto credit: East2west News
George Blake left for Russia after witnessing the horrors of the Korean War
Blake was sentenced to a record 42 years in London in 1961 for spilling British secrets and sending dozens of Western agents to their deaths.
He himself claimed to have betrayed up to 600 of his comrades to the Soviets during the Cold War.
The traitor went on the run after climbing over the Wormwood Scrubs prison wall in 1966, shortly after England won the World Cup.
In one shot through Europe, it then went to East Berlin and into the hands of its grateful Soviet spy masters.
“The bitter news has come – the legendary George Blake is gone,” announced Sergey Ivanov, spokesman for the SVR foreign intelligence service, formerly KGB, on Boxing Day.
“He died of old age, his heart stopped.”
Blake celebrated his 98th birthday last month with a message from Spy Master Sergey Naryshkin, who sent him Russia’s “warm and sincere wishes”.
When he died, he was the oldest KGB veteran.
Pals said that while he was visually impaired in his final years, he continued to “spy on” Britain by stopping BBC radio.
I think the word “traitor” can be used to describe me – but there are reasons that can justify what I did
The ghost was hiding in his dacha country house near Moscow, which was a gift from the KGB to protect him from coronavirus.
“I think the word ‘traitor’ can be used to describe me – but there are reasons that can justify what I did,” he once said.
Although he had been a refugee from justice in Britain since 1966, he kept in touch with the three sons he left when he fled to Moscow.
George Blake betrayed Britain and killed dozens of agents Photo credit: East2west News
Earlier this year, Ivanov had said: “George Blake walks a lot in the fresh air, listens to his favorite classical music, communicates regularly with relatives and friends on the phone and consults his doctors remotely …
“The SVR is in constant remote contact with him and his relatives and provides health surveillance for this honored person.”
During the Soviet era, Dutch-born Blake was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Red Banner.
Rossiyskaya Gazeta said his last honor from Moscow was as “the patriarch of Russian foreign intelligence”.
In Russian he was known as Colonel Georgiy Ivanovich Bleyk.
By the end, Blake insisted he had “no regrets” and showed no remorse when he was extolled in an official 2008 portrait by artist Alexander Shilov.
Shilov described him as someone who was “polite, humble and warm” – but masked a “man of iron”.
Blake retired to his country house but was still “spying on” Britain by listening to the BBCPhoto credit: Voennaya Taina / REN TV
Blake with the head of the SVR press Sergei IvanovPhoto credit: Voennaya Taina / REN TV
Blake betrayed Britain after becoming a communist and defected to the KGB while imprisoned during the Korean War.
He served in the Royal Navy before being recruited by MI6 in 1944, and with them interrogated captains of Nazi submarines during World War II.
The spy was captured in 1950 when the Korean War broke out, which divided the country into North and South Korea.
As a prisoner he read the works of the communist thinker Karl Marx and was appalled by the West’s bombing campaign against North Korea.
Around 600,000 tons of bombs were dropped on the land, killing an estimated 3 million North Koreans – and nearly every city was set on fire with napalm.
Blake told the Soviets he was about to defeat and was eventually released and returned to Britain a hero in 1953.
George Blake was denied the opportunity to return to the UK to meet his grandchildren Photo credit: TV Zvezda
The traitor then began reporting on British and American operations – including an attempt to tap Soviet telephone lines known as Operation Gold.
He is believed to have betrayed at least 40 MI6 agents to the KGB and had an immeasurable impact on British Cold War intelligence efforts.
“I don’t know what I passed because it was so much,” he said in 2009.
He naively believed the KGB when they told him they had never shot anyone. “I thought you kept your word.”
Blake briefed on Western activities for nine years before he was finally found out and sentenced to 42 years in prison.
It was the longest sentence ever imposed by a UK court until Nezar Hindawi was jailed for attempting to bomb an El Al airliner at London Heathrow in 1986.
Blake managed to escape Wormwood Scrubs with the help of friends he found in prison and managed to return to East Germany after being smuggled out of Britain in a motor home.
George Blake walks near his country house near MoscowPhoto credit: TV Zvezda
Blake had three children – Anthony, James, and Patrick – with his wife, Gillian Allan, an MI6 secretary, all of whom he left when he escaped from prison.
As adults, they all traveled to Moscow to meet their father – but as children, his identity was hidden from him.
“The story of how Blake came back in touch with them and made his peace with his boys is a great, indescribable aspect of his life and he is very proud of it,” said a Russian source who knew the spy.
However, it is also believed that the sons went through considerable fear and soul searching because of their father’s deadly espionage.
Blake said of his meeting with James, the first son who tracked him down in Moscow: “We got on well … I explained the whole situation to him, why I did it and how I did it, and we have had a very long time talked.
“He went back and must have given a favorable report and then the others came out.”
The agent also had a Russian son, Mikhail, now in his forties, who became a high finance lecturer, ironic given Blake’s commitment to long-gone communism.
Blake’s official portrait Photo credit: East2west News
Blake continued to play an active role in Russian intelligence even after the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
On his 85th birthday in 2007 he was awarded the Order of Friendship by Vladimir Putin.
Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, turned down an attempt to allow Blake – likely Britain’s longest fugitive from justice – to visit Britain to meet his grandchildren.
Blake was told that if he traveled to the UK or any other western country, he would be arrested immediately for his 37 years imprisonment.
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When asked in 2006 what caused it to overflow, Blake said: “It was the relentless bombing of small Korean villages by huge American air forts.
“Women and children and old people because the young men were in the army. We could have been victims ourselves.
“I was ashamed to belong to those overwhelming, technically superior countries that fought against the people who were defenseless for me.
“I felt on the wrong side.”