Mr. Pushkar New discoveries in KGB archives show a Kyiv agent sold documents to North Korean spies for money, cameras, and ginseng
The U.S-government-funded Russian-language television channel Current Time released a special feature on May 23 describing the unusual career of Stanislav Pushkar. Pushkar, an engineer from Kyiv, was recruited by North Korean agents while working in a government factory in the 1970s. Recently declassified documents in the Ukrainian KGB’s archives show that Pushkar sold secret documents and appliances to the agents before being arrested and imprisoned ten years later.
In 1970, 32-year-old Stanislav Pushkar was an engineer in Kyiv’s Arsenal-2 factory. He lived happily with his parents and young son and enjoyed taking photographs and fishing in his spare time. When Pushkar was assigned to work with three North Korean interns who had arrived in the Ukrainian capital as military school exchange students, however, an unusual chain of events took shape that would ultimately end the engineer’s life.
The three students had been assigned to the factory to learn about Soviet antitank missile systems that the USSR was set to export to their home country. They also spent time with Pushkar and his colleagues after work, taking them to restaurants and showing them North Korean films. Over time, the students began visiting Pushkar at home, bringing gifts of ginseng vodka for the engineer himself and ginseng extract to treat his mother’s heart condition.
Then, in February of 1971, two of the students were celebrating the end of their internship at Pushkar’s home when they told him they hadn’t learned everything they had hoped their internship would cover. They asked him to go to the factory library and copy blueprints for the Phalange antitank missile complex. Those documents were well outside the internship’s purview — and they were classified as top secret. Whether Pushkar understood the nature of his friends’ request remains unclear. Regardless, he took them up on their offer. The North Korean students gave the engineer a small camera, which he showed off to his coworkers but did not use. Instead, Pushkar sniped the documents from his workplace without a hitch, photographed them at home, and put them back.
By the time Pushkar brought the film to Moscow as requested, it was already the end of the year. He only delivered the blueprints after a visit from two other North Korean agents, who brought him gifts, 500 rubles in cash, and a letter from one of his former interns. Soon, the agents’ requests began to escalate: they wanted whole appliances and documents to which even Pushkar did not have access. The engineer decided to recruit a coworker, Gennady Naumov. After a tense meeting, Naumov agreed to cooperate with the North Korean spies despite his initial qualms. Pushkar assured him that there was very good money to be made in the deal.
Naumov, however, was not working alone. Earlier in 1971, he had already agreed to work with the KGB to monitor Pushkar: both Naumov and the secret police agency had come to suspect the Ukrainian engineer of espionage. While the KGB considered whether to arrest Pushkar or try to recruit him as a double agent, the engineer noticed on one of his delivery trips to Moscow that he was being followed. Concerned, Pushkar considered cutting off ties with the North Korean agents. He also tried unsuccessfully to move to East Germany. In 1977, he left the factory for a different job. Pushkar’s case was archived for lack of legally sufficient evidence one year later. In the meantime, he had met with the North Korean spies again.
Then, in 1979, things changed. A North Korean attaché’s assistant was dispatched to Pushkar with a list of new military information needs, including “materials capable of reducing the effects of neutron bombs, a night vision device with a range of more than 800 meters, and a laser distance measurement device.” The KGB successfully recruited the agent, sent him out of the country, and let one of their own recruits meet Pushkar, whose declining health had landed him in a hospital. After a strenuous effort to reconstruct the accusations against the engineer and cover up the deliberation process that had previously prevented his arrest, the KGB charged Pushkar in 1980. He pleaded guilty.
In 1981, a decade after his first mission, Stanislav Pushkar was sentenced to 10 years in a high-security prison camp for treason and espionage. By the time the Arsenal-2 factory managed to contact the camp to sue its former employee for lost data, the camp’s director could only respond that Pushkar was dead.
Summary by Viktor Davydov
English version by Hilah Kohen