The spy who started the Cold War

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MI5 and KGB files have at last revealed the identity of the agent who passed Britain’s atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union — and triggered the Cold War.

For ten years a Soviet spy codenamed “Eric” fed Britain’s nuclear secrets to Moscow, paving the way for the Cold War. The KGB treasured him as its “main source” of atomic intelligence; MI5 suspected him, trailed him, opened his letters and monitored his every move. But he was never caught.

Today, 70 years later, with the opening of MI5 and KGB files, “Eric” can finally be identified as Engelbert (Bertie) Broda, a brilliant Austrian scientist who evaded Britain’s spy-catchers for a decade while working as a Soviet mole in the heart of the wartime nuclear research programme.

The KGB archives are now sealed, but for a brief window in the mid-1990s a KGB officer named Alexander Vassiliev gained access to the files and began transcribing their contents. Vassiliev’s notebooks form the basis of a new book, published in the US this month, revealing Broda’s pivotal role in Soviet atomic espionage.

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