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Soviet Spymaster Yury Drozdov Dead At 91

Yury Drozdov retired from the KGB in 1991.
Yury Drozdov retired from the KGB in 1991.

Yury Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents living clandestinely abroad, has died at the age of 91.

The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn't give the cause of Drozdov's death on June 21.

Drozdov took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel, convicted in the United States, for downed U.S. spy-plane pilot Francis Gary Powers in 1962.

The story was made into Steven Spielberg's blockbuster Bridge Of Spies in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie The Shield And The Sword, a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.

Putin himself offered condolences to Drozdov's wife and two sons in a message published on the Kremlin's website. Drozdov was "a legendary spy" and a "true patriot," Putin said.

Working under diplomatic cover, Drozdov served as the KGB resident in China in 1964-68, and in the United States in 1975-79.

In 1979, he came to head a KGB department overseeing a network of elite undercover agents abroad known as "illegals," the job he held until resigning in 1991.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, and Interfax

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