Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was a Soviet spy in Damascus in the 1980s, Israel’s Channel 1 television reported Wednesday, citing information it said was included in an archive smuggled out of the USSR.
According to Channel 1’s foreign news editor Oren Nahari, the famed Mitrokhin archive, kept by KGB defector Vasily Mitrokhin, revealed that Abbas was a Soviet mole in Damascus in 1983.
The documents — obtained by Israeli researchers Isabella Ginor and Gideon Remez — purportedly show that Abbas, code-named Krotov (mole), was involved with the Soviets while Mikhail Bogdanov, today Vladimir Putin’s envoy to the Middle East. was stationed in Damascus.
Bogdanov was caught in a diplomatic tussle earlier this week after trying to broker a summit between Abbas and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow, who both claimed a willingness to meet while decrying the other for allegedly refusing.
Mitrokhin was a senior KGB archivist who defected to the UK in 1992, and his edited notes on various KGB operations were released in 2014. His handwritten notes remain classified by MI5.
The archivist’s notes on the KGB are considered among the most complete information available on Soviet intelligence operations. He claimed that the KGB recruited the then head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Wadi Haddad, as an agent in the 1970s.
His writings also revealed that Haddad, operating under the code name NATSIONALIST, was given Soviet assistance in funding and arming the PFLP.
According to an Eastern Soviet bloc intelligence agent who defected to the US in the 1970s, the PLO, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the PFLP all received help from the KGB.
Romanian Lt. General Pacepa told US officials that in 1972 that then-PLO leader Yasser Arafat closely collaborated with the KGB and the Romanian Securitate service, and PLO guerrilla fighters were secretly trained by Soviet intelligence agents.
In response to the Channel 1 report, Fatah official Nabil Shaath denied that Abbas was ever a KGB operative, calling the claim a “smear campaign” that attempted to distract from potentially Russian-led peace talks in Moscow.
Throughout his early life, Abbas developed a network of Palestinian political activists from across the Arab world that would eventually become Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Abbas studied at the People’s Friendship University of Russia, where he wrote his doctoral thesis, “The Secret Relationship between German Nazis and Zionists,” which has been accused of denying the scope of the Holocaust.
After earning his doctorate, Abbas moved to Tunisia where he took a more active role in PLO leadership, and worked his way up to chairman of the organization. He became PA president following Arafat’s death in 2004.