Neljapäev, 02 Märts 2017 22:00
Laas Leivat - Estonian Life No. 9 2017
Imants Lesinskis, the former chairman of the Soviet-occupied Latvia's KGB-affiliated committee that pursued 'cultural relations' with Latvians abroad defected in 1978. Subsequently he said that he had been a KGB officer who was tasked with inflitrating the Latvians in the West, finding 'friends' for the Soviets and causing divisions within the local communities. He also said that VEKSA in Soviet-occupied Estonia fulfilled the same responsibilities as its counterpart in Latvia.
Lesinskis claimed to have been a KGB operative for 23 years. While heading the Soviet cultural relations committee in Riga, Lesinskis' was assigned as an undercover operatiove to the 'active measures' section, a department focussing on influencing or effecting change in their targets, as opposed to simply gathering intelligence. Archival KGB documents in Riga provide his codename and confirm his association with the KGB.
But an intriguing question arose after he was given a secret identity and resettled in an unknown location in the USA. Had he been working, as he stated, for the CIA while fulfilling other duties for the KGB?
His own story, about his double agent life begins in 1960 when he was in Rome, while covering the Olympics for the Soviet 'Homeland Voice'. That was his ostensible assignment. But both of his former wives say that he was tasked by the KGB to contact Australian olympians of Latvian descent. But according to Lesinskis, his hatred of the Soviet system led him to the US embassy requesting political asylum. However the CIA convinced him that he could be more useful to the West by returning to Soviet-occupied Latvia and becoming their agent.
By 1978, after working undercover for the KGB in various positions, including as head of the Latvia's 'VEKSA", he was officially employed (as was his wife) as a translator for the UN. In April of 1978, the Soviet mission had been placed on high alert, after one of their own, Arkady Shevchenko, as UN Under-secretary, the highest placed Soviet to be a UN official, defected to the US. Soon after, Lesinskis and his wife were invited to return to Latvia for an unscheduled vacation. They feared being arrested upon arrival and because Lesinskis' daughter was in the US visiting at the time, chose to leave the Soviet fold.
Just prior to making that decision, Lesinkis had told his daughter, that she could make her own choice, she could go to the Soviet embassy and denounce her fatherr as a traitor, or she could choose to stay with him and her stepmother and never see her mother or visit her occupied homeland again. After 13 years she would once again return to Latvia, this time free and independent.
Did Imants Lesinskas know on the US Labour Day weekend in 1978 what the future would offer him as he waited in Washington's Marriot Hotel, with his university student daughter and her step mother for the FBI and CIA to arrive to greet them? The following week, the family went to the US Immigration and Naturalization Service and became West German immigrants, Peter and Linda Dorn, and their daughter Evelyn, stateless people who posessed re-entry permits but no passports. (To be continued)Laas Leivat