Tracking Soviet Coup “Proceeds” in Europe

Date: 08/04/2021

Author: Kent Moors, Ph.D.

It seems problems come in bunches. There are two reasons this edition of the Classified Intelligence Brief  “Spy Tales” series is late.

The first involves the vetting disagreement. Discussions are ongoing, but “mother” and I continue to be at odds over what can be released. Once again, my intended piece was scuttled. Moving forward, there may be some ability to “write around” the issues of contention but this now needs to move up the line to higher pay grades for approval.

To be continued. As a result, the tale that does appear today is the last “in reserve” from writings already approved

The second problem to hit resulted in even this piece ending up delayed. Marina and I have the 27th floor in the tower on the right in this picture. Both our residence and my office are there.

Less than 48 hours ago, a fire sprinkler pipe break near the roof created a new water feature cascading down the inside of the building, flooding our place, and knocking out the Internet. I ended up working off a cell phone.

Well, the water pipes have been repaired (I hope) and the Internet is back on (although my computer system took a bit longer to put back into working order). That should finally allow a return to whatever will pass for “normal” around here.

This week’s Classified Intelligence Brief addresses what occurred thirty years ago this month, as the USSR began breaking apart. It will also introduce you to a figure in the shadows of the KGB and a certain money matter that exists even today as a buried element in ongoing sanctions against Russia.

I have something to do with what happened.

August 1991 had been a particularly trying period for Marina and me as the noticeable tensions in Moscow began to escalate. I had ended my residency in the city by this time, managing to get her and her son out on an academic business visa (a long story in itself); we were married in the States at the end of 1989.

But when the coup hit, she was spending some very contentious times back in Moscow writing her syndicated US newspaper column as the turbulence intensified. Marina would again be writing from Moscow two years later during the September 1993 crisis. Those columns would be widely syndicated and read internationally. I am likely to take you there later in this series.

Meanwhile in August of 1991, I was elsewhere dealing with a peculiar set of consequences from what was unfolding back in Mother Russia.

On August 19, 1991, a group of Soviet leaders (quickly dubbed the “Gang of Eight” by Western media) signed a “Declaration of the Soviet Leadership.” This called for a nationwide state of emergency and a State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) established. Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev was put under house arrest at his dacha in Crimea.

The “Gang of Eight” Photo: from an ABC News broadcast, August 21, 1991

The “Gang” was comprised of: Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov; Vice President Gennady Yanayev; Chairman of the Committee for State Security (KGB Head) Vladimir Kryuchkov; Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov; Interior Minister (director of domestic police and state militia) Boris Pugo; member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) Central Committee Oleg Baklanov (whose real power came from his other position – First Deputy Chairman of the USSR Defense Council); Peasant Union Chairman Vasily Starodubtsev; and Alexandr Tizyakov, President of the Association of the State Enterprises and Objects of Industry, Transport, and Communications.

The final two were added to the GKChP at the last moment to give the appearance that the coup had broad-based popular support. It certainly did not.

Several events that occurred during the next few days signaled the coup was deteriorating. Before the declaration had been signed, crack KGB spetsnaz troops had circled Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s dacha outside Moscow, but for some reason never arrested him.

Russia at the time was one of the 15 internal republics comprising the USSR. A year earlier, Yeltsin had become the first leader in Russian history to be selected in a popular election. Then, the Russian Presidency was roughly equivalent to a state governor in the US.

Yeltsin escaped and later evaded GKChP airport control to return and lead the opposition holed inside the Parliament Building. He would later be elected to two terms as President of an independent Russia.

Yet, in a testament to how quickly Russian politics can change, fast forward to September 1993. Then it will be Yeltsin’s tanks on one side of the Moscow River shelling the same Parliament Building he had defended against Soviet tanks two years earlier.

In fact, it would be the famous photos of Yeltsin standing on one of those tanks and defying the Red Army that would transform him into a global symbol of democratic resistance.

August 20, 1991 Photo:

Other indicators were surfacing that the coup was dismantling. Concerned that Muscovites would not shoot fellow residents of the city, Yazov had moved tanks from Minsk in Belarus (also then a constituent republic in the USSR). However, when they faced off against locals surrounding the Parliament, they refused to fire. In response, some were garnished with flowers.


And then there was the defiance of General Pavel Grachev who declined GKChP demands for troop support and air cover. Grachev is rumored to have not answered his phone for three days. As a result (after two months in which Yeltsin himself occupied the position), Grachev would become the new Russia’s first Defense Minister.

A number of smaller invisible examples emerged in which average citizens just did not do what their jobs entailed, making even routine matters difficult for the coup members. Nonetheless, the vast majority of the city’s population acted the way they always did in such situations. They simply stayed home until the dust settled.

Even the GKChP itself was showing the strain. When they finally appeared for a ludicrous press conference, three of the seven who showed up were visibly intoxicated.

The 1991 coup became yet another example of how a defining historical episode rarely plays out the same the further one moves from its epicenter. Because, as the power elements mobilizing against Gorbachev collapsed in Moscow, they were attempting to solidify their hold in a wider European network.

And the KGB had a central role.

For that matter, KGB head Kryuchkov had led the coup. Months earlier he instructed his officers to draw up contingency plans for the introduction of martial law throughout the country while orchestrating internal moves against Gorbachev’s decision to enter into a controversial power sharing plan with several of the republics.

Yet, while global interest centered on the abortive coup against Gorbachev and the rise of  Yeltsin unfolding in Moscow, something else was ramping up in Europe as the KGB set up backup for the coup’s aftermath, whether successful or not.

That is where my responsibilities kicked in.

There had been unusual activity in the Western European KGB and related Soviet intelligence network building up throughout the summer of 1991. Much of this involved a recent interest in designated banks. We tracked unusual banking activity from the USSR via Eastern European houses and then to Swiss, French, Belgian, and other continental banks.

Enter Sergei Tretyakov. This guy (not my “Sergei” from earlier Spy Tales, by the way) was an aide to Kryuchkov, a career officer who remained in the SVR (foreign intelligence) following the dissolution of the KGB in 1992.

Sergei Tretyakov 2008 Photo:

That is, until his October 2000 defection to the US from a Russian delegation at the UN in New York, Well before that, I was involved in the tracking of his activities in Europe and traced them back to instructions he received from Kryuchkov.

While Marina was in Moscow as the coup unraveled, I was in Paris and elsewhere in Europe following the money Tretyakov had moved out.

For months, he had been a bagman for the KGB boss, moving massive amounts of money into the financial network funneling funds to Western European banks. Initial estimates totaled at least $30 billion with much supported (i.e., collateralized) by Soviet export commodities (oil, natural gas, metals, timber, gold) held in trading houses either created by Soviet parties or effectively controlled by them.

If the coup worked, the Soviet leadership (or at least some of them) had a nice retirement fund abroad. If it collapsed, they still had billions with which to commiserate.

Years later, Tretyakov (by then living not far from where I do now in Florida and, after 2007, an American citizen along with his entire family) made some more news. He claimed that the Russian government using a network similar to his during the coup days siphoned off at least $500 million from the UN Oil-for-Food Program (OIP). OIP allowed Saddam Hussein, then under UN sanctions, to export crude oil to allow the import of food and other necessary products for the Iraqi population.

Much of this was done through Russian trading interests and, according to Tretyakov, resulted in both proceeds redirected and Hussein paying bribes to Russian political leaders for assistance rendered. He further claimed that current Russian President Vladimir Putin was fully aware of the rouge.

Well-known intel writer Peter Earley published a book in 2008 (Comrade J) based on Tretyakov’s reminiscences of his “exploits.” I have always liked Earley’s writings. But the material in this one just flat out smells. Tretyakov was enraged that the publisher made no effort to push the book and it had few significant reviews. After reading it, some of us concluded much of it was just plain fictionalized rubbish.

The KGB operative turned US citizen died on June 13, 2010 although curiously the death was not made public for almost a month. Rumors of foul play immediately surfaced. His wife said that he died of cardiac arrest, which she found unexpected. Another version claimed he choked on a piece of meat. He was also found later to have had a cancerous colon tumor.

That Putin made a veiled reference to Tretyakov in a July 24, 2010 comment about the fate that befalls all traitors hardly laid the foul play scenario to rest.

However, by March of 1992 much of the billions moved out by Tretyakov on behalf of Kryuchkov and his coup chums had been transferred and sequestered in a Paris bank and the accounts of Dutch and French trading houses. There we froze them.

The money has remained there ever since, quietly rolled forward with each new round of Western sanctions against Putin and Moscow.

Just goes to show you that stealing money is just half the job.


Dr. Kent Moors

This is an installment of Classified Intelligence Brief, your guide to what’s really happening behind the headlines… and how to profit from it. Dr. Kent Moors served the United States for 30 years as one of the most highly decorated intelligence operatives alive today (including THREE Presidential commendations).

After moving through the inner circles of royalty, oligarchs, billionaires, and the uber-rich, he discovered some of the most important secrets regarding finance, geo-politics, and business. As a result, he built one of the most impressive rolodexes in the world. His insights and network of contacts took him from a Vietnam veteran to becoming one of the globe’s most sought after consultants, with clients including six of the largest energy companies and the United States government.

Now, Dr. Moors is sharing his proprietary research every week… knowledge filtered through his decades as an internationally recognized professor and scholar, intelligence operative, business consultant, investor, and geo-political “troubleshooter.” This publication is designed to give you an insider’s view of what is really happening on the geo-political stage.

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