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Exposed Soviet Document: Mahmoud Abbas Was a K.G.B. Spy in the 1980s

According to a newly discovered Soviet document, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, was named in a document in a British archive listing Soviet agents from 1983. 

The two-line reference to Mr. Abbas identifies him “Abbas, Mahmoud, born 1935 in Palestine”, living in Damascus, identifies him by the code name “Mole” and the cryptic notation: “K.G.B. agent.” As a matter of fact, Mr. Abbas was born in 1935 in Palestine and grew up and was educated in Damascus after the 1948 war.

The finding was made by two researchers at the Truman Institute at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who found and disclosed the Soviet document to Israel’s Channel 1. Mr. Gideon Remez and Ms. Isabella Ginor said they came across the paper naming Mr. Abbas while researching Soviet involvement in the Middle East.

Remez explained, “We thought it was important now in the context of the Russian attempt to arrange a summit between Abbas and Netanyahu, particularly because of Abbas’s joint K.G.B. past with Putin.” (At the end of the Soviet era, Mr. Putin was a K.G.B. lieutenant colonel.)

Ginor said Mr. Abbas’s past was relevant because of Russia’s possible continuing influence on him. Abbas’s connections to the Russians goes back to his youth, when he received his Phd from the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow in the 1960’s. 

The document naming Mr. Abbas was among thousands of pages of files spirited out of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and turned over to British intelligence by a disillusioned former K.G.B. archivist, Vasily Mitrokhin. This created a treasure trove for Western analysts and historians that are now stored at the Churchill Archives Center at the University of Cambridge and were opened to the public two years ago. 

Palestinian officials scoffed at the report of Mr. Abbas’s possible ties to the Soviet spy agency. Palestinian officials argued that there would have been no need for Mr. Abbas to be a Soviet agent because the Palestine Liberation Organization at the time was openly working with Moscow. Mr. Abbas, they said, led a Palestinian-Soviet friendship foundation, making him the de facto liaison to Moscow.

Remez and Ginor noted that, according to his official Foreign Ministry biography, Mikhail Bogdanov, the Russian deputy foreign minister who has been shuttling between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in recent days, served in Damascus from 1983-89 and again from 1991-94.

Mr. Remez said that they were not trying to undercut Mr. Abbas and, in fact, they favor talks with the Palestinians — but not under the auspices of the Russians, who should not be trusted — and “that is why we thought this is the time to go public with this discovery.”


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