Elena Vavilova’s book offers rare insight into the Soviet deep-cover ‘illegals’ programme

“A spy has to be an actor, but an actor that doesn’t need a public or a stage, and doesn’t require the approval of others,” says Elena Vavilova, as she sips a cappuccino in a Moscow cafe.

Vavilova acted the part of a Canadian woman named Tracy Foley, an identity stolen for her by the KGB, for two decades. Almost no one knew her real identity, not even her own children. She was an “illegal”, a deep-cover Russian operative sent to the west along with her husband Andrei Bezrukov, who used the name Donald Heathfield.

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