UK journalist quits over KGB contacts

By PAUL GOULD  |  Dec. 9, 1994
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LONDON, Dec. 9 -- A senior journalist of The Guardian newspaper has resigned after admitting secret meetings with Soviet agents in the 1970s and early 1980s, but he denied Friday that he ever took money to recruit KGB contacts on his newspaper. The Spectator, a right-wing magazine, said Thursday it had learned from former KGB members that the Guardian's left-wing literary editor Richard Gott accepted 300 pound ($468) payments from the KGB and passed on the names of Guardian journalists he considered useful contacts. The Spectator article accused Gott of betrayal of trust and scorned his 'rose-tinted vision of the bullies, gangsters and thugs who ran communist states.' Gott admitted in his resignation letter, published in the Guardian Friday, that he 'enjoyed' contacts with Russian and other Soviet bloc officials. He also admitted accepting Soviet-paid trips to Vienna, Athens and Nicosia, saying he 'took red gold, even if it was only in the form of expenses.' He told Guardian editor Peter Preston he should have declared the trips, but thought it all to be 'an enjoyable joke' at the time. Gott denied the magazine's allegations that he accepted direct payments. 'I should state quite clearly and unequivocally that I did not receive money from the Russians I met,' he wrote. 'But I have talked to the Russians (and the Cubans and the North Vietnamese) over the years. 'I rather enjoyed the cloak and dagger atmosphere which will be familiar to anyone who has read the spy stories of the Cold War,' he added.

Gott said he was first approached by a Soviet Embassy official in London in 1964, when he was working for the Royal Institute of International Affairs. The contacts resumed in the 1970s and in the 1980s. In 1985, KGB defector Oleg Gordievsky revealed to British intelligence that Gott was on the KGB's contact list. That revelation led to Gott being summoned to meet British intelligence agency MI6. The Spectator said former Soviet Embassy official Igor Titov was Gott's first 'controller,' before his expulsion in 1983 for 'activities incompatible with his diplomatic status.' This was followed by contacts with KGB officer Mikhail Bogdanov, the magazine said. Gott's contacts were not illegal, but The Spectator mocked The Guardian, illustrating its front cover with the newspaper's masthead with a superimposed hammer and sickle. 'Gott has spent his journalistic life fulminating against the evils of capitalism and attempting to airbrush out the faults of Soviet communism,' the Spectator article said. 'Perhaps he might now think it better to spare us some of his high moral outrage at the corruption of the British Establishment.' Guardian editor Preston accepted Gott's resignation with 'the heaviest of hearts,' but dismissed The Spectator's allegations as 'slimy stuff to a barely hidden agenda.'

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