1. Revelations from Mitrokhin's Archives.
“Friend” – that is the secret police code name of archpriest Vasiliy Fonchenkov, a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad. In the 1970s, he helped the KGB imprison anti-communist priests. Now, his past does not prevent him from being a member of the clergy of the Church Abroad. The KGB is so sure of the Church's indifference, it can openly reveal its agents. “Friend” serves as a priest in Salzburg, Austria.
Don't believe me? Allow me to refer you to the book, “Mitrokhin's Achives,” co-authored with Professor Christopher Andrew (who wrote “The Sword and the Shield” - published by Basic Books). Vasiliy Mitrokhin was the director of the KGB archive division and was able to bring a large amount of secret documents to the West in 1992. For ten years, he risked his life by secretly bringing copies of the documents from KGB headquarters. I know him because I met him in the corridors of the Lubyanka. He gave the impression of a dour, dedicated communist. Apparently, his severe demeanor kept him above suspicion.
Mitrokhin's meticulous scholarship avoids baseless accusations and allows us label this priest a KGB agent. Here are the facts he presents:
“The Christian Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Believers tried to safeguard itself against penetration by the KGB by keeping the committee small, made up of never more than four people. Finally, in May of 1979, Fr. Vasiliy Fonchenkov joined the committee. What the committee did not know was that he had been recruited by the KGB's Fifth Directorate nine years before and was given the alias “Friend.” As noted in his personal file, 'he was helpful in the development of contacts in the Orthodox Church that were of operational interest and carried this out conscientiously and enthusiastically.' Fonchenkov worked as an instructor in the Theological Academy in Zagorsk from 1972 on, while also a member of the department of international affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate. From 1976 to 1977, he was a priest at the Church of St. Sergey in East Berlin, and editor of 'Stimme der Orthodoxie” (Orthodoxy's Voice), the journal of the Central-European diocese of the Moscow Patriarchate. The contacts which 'Friend' developed within foreign churches were a plus for the Christian Committee, which did not suspect a thing.
The battle which the KGB waged against “dissidents” within the Orthodox Church peaked in 1979-1980. It was characterized by a wave of arrests of the leading dissidents (chief among them was Fr. Gleb Yakunin), followed by imprisonment or public displays of penitence. Possibly to protect Fonchenkov from being found out, he was summoned to the KGB for questioning, after which he stated that he had been threatened with arrest, though the charge against him was never revealed.” (Here and further on, I am citing from Christopher Andrew's book, “The Sword and the Shield,” New York, “Basic Books,” pages 495-496.)
That fact that Fr. Vasiliy Fonchenkov worked in the department of international affairs of the Moscow Patriarchate is enough proof that he was an agent of the KGB. This department is not a canonical church body. It was created by the KGB to exploit operational contacts within foreign churches. The real directors of this department are not part of the Patriarchate. They can be found in a small, rose-colored building near the “Vernadskiy Prospekt” metro-station. That is the office of “RT,” a foreign intelligence unit. The abbreviation stands for “Reconnaissance outside of Russia's Territory.” The “RT” department also sends Russian scientists and public figures on spy missions abroad. Several of its intelligence officers work as laypeople in the Patriarchate's Department of International Relations.
You might ask, “Is it possible, that not all of them are agents?” Unfortunately, all of them are. You can't have people who are not agents witnessing operational activity or other violations of the separation of church and state. The KGB can work clandestinely, only when everyone involved has sworn their allegiance.
The author of “Mitrokhin's Archives” also notes that in 1979 the KGB was able to force Fr. Dmitriy Dudko to repent in a public statement, though a similar attempt with Fr. Gleb Yakunin failed. That is why, the author adds, “only Yakunin's wife was allowed to witness his trial. All other family members, friends and western journalists were kept out. (…) Fonchenkov was also barred. This may have been done to protect him possibly from being exposed as an agent.”
This period of Fonchenkov's life is presented on the official website of the Moscow church thusly: “In 1973, he was made a priest. In 1976-77, he was the pastor at the Church of St. Sergey in Karlshorst (Berlin), and editor of the journal 'Stimme der Orthodoxie.' In 1979, he became a member of the Christian Committee for the Protection of the Rights of Believers. He is currently a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, serving in Salzburg.” His becoming a member of the Committee is portrayed as a reward for his service as a priest, as is his being the editor of the church journal in German. People not in the know may think that Fonchenkov is still on the Committee, tirelessly working for the rights of believers. It would be inconceivable for them to think that he joined the Committee to destroy it and to have the members imprisoned.
2. Fr. Gleb Yakunin Speaks Out.
Then I thought, “what would Fr. Gleb Yakunin, the main hero of this episode, have to say?” and I dialed his Moscow telephone number.
“I was not alarmed by Fr. Vasiliy Fonchenkov's admission into the Committee,” Fr. Gleb explains. “We had known each other for some time, and I knew he was an anti-communist. It did not bother me that he was a son of a prominent Bolshevik, for whom even a street in Moscow was named. In those years, the children of Stalinists often became opponents of the regime. I must say, I did not pay attention at the time to how easily he clicked-in with us. You know, contacts with dissidents were dangerous for people in the Soviet Union. I was not completely sure that Vasiliy Fonchenkov was a KGB agent, even though he taught in the Theological Academy, which was tightly controlled by the “state service.” The KGB department that oversaw the Aacdemy was in a building across from the entrance to the monastery and behind a movie theater.”
“I hold no grudge against Fr. Vasiliy and I am even grateful that he gave me subtle warnings of my pending arrest,” Fr. Gleb points out. “He also did not testify against me. He and several others were excluded from being called as witnesses, though logically, they should have been involved. The KGB protects its agents that way. After I was sent to prison, Fonchenkov became chairman of the Committee, though he was removed a year later. We found out that the Politburo declared that all the dissident movements had to be squashed through repression, and they decided not to risk their own people.”
“After I was released from prison, I never met Fr. Vasiliy Fonchenkov, though he called me after Mitrokhin's book came out. You could tell by his voice that he was upset. He insisted that everything written about him was disinformation and asked if I wanted to publicly refute it. I refused, explaining that I considered Mitrokhin's book an important source of information. He asked if I had anything to do with its publication. I told him that I had not and went on to thank Fr. Vasiliy for warning me of my pending arrest. He did not like that and stated that he had not warned me of anything. I have to add, that he was calling me from Moscow. He had to return there after several priests wrote irate letters to Metropolitan Lavr. But when that small storm passed, Vasiliy Fonchenkov came back out to the West,” Fr. Gleb added with a sardonic laugh.
3. Do two boots make a pair?
“Friend” is far from alone. It is simply that God forces us to realizations through the likes of him. For some time now, the KGB has sprinkled the Russian Church Abroad throughout with “friends.” There are quite a few with similar life stories. They start by working in the KGB-dominated Patriarchate foreign department. Then for some mysterious reason, they join the Church Abroad, though one can safely say they do so by order of the KGB. It must be noted that this crossing over to the Church Abroad is not accompanied by any penitence or breaking from Moscow. In which case then, the point of coming over is lost. Meanwhile, in the Church Abroad, they openly work for the benefit of Moscow. Somehow, this does not alarm anyone around them.
One can easily imagine, what would have happened to the Soviet agent Stirlitz, the hero of the famous film “17 Moments of Spring,” if he had walked the halls of the Gestapo praising Stalin. But in the Church Abroad, this is ignored for some reason. It shows how strong the KGB's influence in the church is.
As it prepares to swallow up the Russian Church Abroad, the KGB carefully monitors opinion in the émigré community. It is currently concerned that many point out how priests had been recruited by the KGB. They have countered that with an argument meant to confuse the issue: “Yes, all Soviet priests serving abroad were KGB agents! So what? That's the way it was back then!” I heard this from several émigrés lately.
It incorrectly makes to appear that the work of these agents is a thing of the past. If the Soviet regime collapsed, then of course, this sort of activity has also stopped. But the KGB or the FSB has not been eliminated! Just the opposite, it has taken control of the entire governmental structure.
All those who were agents during the Soviet epoch, are still agents today. There is only one way to stop being a KGB agent – renounce it publicly, in the press and only then will the KGB drop you from its rolls. This has happened, even among priests, but our “Friend” has not done so.
I have not personally seen his official file, but I am sure that it includes this statement, “Instrumental in cases leading to the arrest and prosecution of targets of operations.” This means he is a valuable agent, not some country priest who, for example, tells the KGB that other priests drink to avoid them paying too much attention to him. “Friend” can then be used in important operations. That is why it is no coincidence that he is in Austria.
That country is important to the Russian intelligence service. Its counter-intelligence department is small, as neutral Austria is of not much interest to most foreign intelligence services. That is why the KGB or FSB is used to running risky operations there, which could get them in trouble in other countries.
Usually, this involves meetings with especially valuable agents, who run great risks in their country since they can be generals, members of Parliaments, or scientists with security clearances. Here is what one such Russian agent may say to his co-workers:
“Man, I want to go to Austria! To Salzburg! You know, to walk around all the old Mozart places!”
“Well, get going, that's a great idea!” – his colleagues agree.
In a few days, our hero is walking the ancient streets of Salzburg, meeting a Russian diplomat or another official in a pre-arranged place. But what if someone is following the diplomat?!! No, it's better to stop into a beautiful ornate Russian church, have a chat with the priest and then pass the envelope with the film to him. No counter-intelligence department will dare enter into the church – a church is sacred!
Fr. Vasiliy Fonchenkov is the right-hand man of Bishop Mark. Is it possible that Bishop Mark knows nothing about Mitrokhin's book? Or maybe he considers the mention of such a person in that book to be a source of pride? Bishop Mark's life story has enough unanswered questions and it looks more like the profile of an agent with no official cover. It is still not clear how he, a native East German and an army officer of that country, managed to make it to the West in the 1960's, which could not be done then legally. In the 1970's, the future archbishop was held by the KGB for questioning in Moscow for bringing anti-Soviet pamphlets, but then inexplicably released later. That would not have been possible legally. I analyzed all of these inconsistencies in my article “The Two Secrets of Bishop Mark,” which can be found on the Internet.
I read in an Internet article that Czar Nicholas II appeared to Fr. Vasiliy Fonchenkov in his sleep. I wonder what he said to him? “Friend, why are you working for the Cheka (KGB), the same one that killed me?”