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Authors: Brian Freemantle

Bearpit

The Bearpit

Brian Freemantle

For Sally and John, with great affection.

I must say that change is going on not without difficulties. And the main obstacle is mentality, the mentality which has taken shape over the years should be changed. The new is waging battle against the old, sometimes in pointed form.

Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachov,

at a press conference for Indian

journalists, November 1986.

Let dogs delight to bark and bite,

For God hath made them so;

Let bears and lions growl and fight,

For ‘tis their nature too.

‘Against Quarrelling': Isaac Watts

Prologue

The ambush was brilliantly conceived, although not by Soviet military intelligence who imagined they were initiating it after so much detailed planning. Six troop companies had been divided at either end of the mist-obscured pass through the Hazarajat mountains for the exit of the
mujahideen
weapons convoy. In addition there were four squads of
spetsnaz
commandos which the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravleniye or GRU had time to ferry in from Moscow, because the entry from Pakistan into Afghanistan of the heavily guarded mule train had been tracked for nearly two weeks. There had been time, too, to transfer from Kabul to Shindad two squadrons of MIG–22s and establish fuel dumps on the outskirts of Shah Juy for the helicopter gunships.

A later Moscow inquiry determined the
mujahideen
timed their attack by the actual emergence from the defile for which the Russians were waiting. As the guerillas came out, already firing, the assault upon the Shah Juy dump began at the rear, with captured Soviet rocket launchers which scored direct hits. They destroyed all the carefully stored fuel – immobilizing the helicopters after their first sorties – and wrecked four machines parked in readiness for the Russian attack that was never to be mounted. The gushing plume of black smoke was visible from the entrance to the pass but its warning came too late for the tightly grouped soldiers who were already under simultaneous attack from
mujahideen
massed unseen and unsuspected in the crags and gulleys all around and others who, equally unsuspected, turned back from the mule train to re-emerge from the entrance and pincer the Russian forces trapped between in withering fire. A panicked attempt at air support from the gunships which survived the Shah Juy sabotage actually increased the Soviet casualties. The
mujahideen
both front and rear had the protection of the rocks but the close-together soldiers and
spetsnaz
were fully exposed in the middle and so close to the Afghan guerillas that rockets and tracer fire hit Russian troops instead. In further panic the MIGs dropped napalm, which resulted in the most extensive casualties of all.

The Russians lost five hundred and fifty men, eight helicopter gunships and two hundred tons of fuel. Which Moscow did not regard as the most serious damage. Both Afghan groups were accompanied by television crews from America's CBS infiltrated across the border from Pakistan. The Soviet rout and humiliation was given worldwide coverage, with verbal reports relayed directly back to Russia through London's BBC and the Munich-based Voice of America transmissions.

The entire GRU
rezidentura
in Kabul was replaced and jail sentences imposed upon everyone withdrawn to Moscow, in two cases for periods of ten years. And from the Politburo came specific instructions that in future the military should place greater reliance upon the Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti or KGB, rather than its own disgraced intelligence service.

In Moscow it was an edict to be seized upon by one KGB officer to attempt a very personal ambush. The man's name was Victor Ivanovich Kazin.

1

Victor Kazin had been stunned after the interview with the KGB chairman in Dzerzhinsky Square, initially unable properly to think. Even before he had been unsettled, hardly able to believe that the Gorbachov changes would reach into the KGB. The rest of Soviet society and life maybe – what the hell did they matter! – but not actually into the Committee for State Security. They were sacrosanct, beyond any interference: an elite society within a society whose recognized and acknowledged position was – or should have been – uninterfered and unquestioned. Always had been: always should be. Didn't they – but more importantly, didn't Gorbachov – realize that without the KGB and its controls and its surveillance and its loyalty to the leadership there wouldn't
be
a Union of Socialist Soviet Republics! A Politburo, even! All the others had. No matter what the outside upheavals, the KGB had until this aberration remained untouchable. The chairmen had been shuffled and purged, certainly: that was understandable. Expectable. Yagoda and Yezhov under Stalin. Beria, under Krushchev. But nothing more than that; nothing more than changes at the absolute top where changes had cosmetically to be made. Who would have imagined – ever conceived – provincial KGB officers actually being brought to trial and openly criticized in newspapers for minor infractions of laws that did not apply to them anyway!

And now this, the most shattering of all. Not just a humiliating diminution of his authority. But for it to be
him!
It was beyond surprise: beyond belief. It was as if someone had found out – that there were long-ago records – but Kazin knew that couldn't be because one of his first actions upon being appointed initially sole head of the KGB's First Chief Directorate had been to check the archives to guarantee there were no such reports that might one day be resurrected and used against him. Despite which Kazin thought it impossible for Vasili Malik's appointment to now share the rôle of joint controller of the Chief Directorate to be a coincidence. Malik, of all people! The man he hated and despised more than he'd ever hated and despised anyone: someone he would do anything to destroy.

And he would destroy the man, Kazin vowed. Malik had stolen from him once. Robbed him of something more precious than he had ever known, before or since. The bastard would not steal anything from him again: certainly not the First Chief Directorate, the control of which had been Kazin's ambition from the moment of joining the Soviet intelligence service in the distant days of Stalin's reign, before it was even known as the KGB.

Alone in his expansive office in the Chief Directorate headquarters overlooking Moscow's peripheral road, Kazin actually sniggered to himself, the earlier burning, impotent fury diminishing. Malik had been forever and permanently safe from the longed-for vengeance within the KGB's Second Chief Directorate, too independently powerful. It was the very fact of the man being untouchable that led Kazin to target the son, determined to hurt by proxy if that were the only way. But it wasn't now: not any longer. Now he would be able to destroy them both, father and son.

He would have to be careful, though. At the moment Kazin objectively accepted his was the weaker position, someone suspect because of initial and admittedly mistaken opposition to Gorbachov, a stance he'd taken because he had been sure the Kremlin establishment would neuter the man. He'd had no alternative anyway: he was provably on record as declaring for Brezhnev and then Andropov. And by so doing branding himself an Old Order traditionalist.

So it was essential to get his survival priorities right. Which meant first proving himself to Gorbachov and his new broom acolytes, with some spectacular intelligence coup. Kazin smiled to himself again. The American operation could not have matured at a more fortuitous time.

The appointments buzzer sounded on his desk and Kazin responded at once, the dossier already open before him.

Vladislav Andreevich Belov was the director of the department within the First Chief Directorate responsible for espionage within the United States and Canada. He was a stick-dry, unemotional man who had linked himself to Kazin's support of the old, out-of-date regimes and now, too late, accepted the mistake. The American proposal would provide the essential recovery, he knew: the uncertainty was presenting it through Kazin. The appointment of a new man to share overall control of the Directorate had to indicate that Kazin was in decline. It was too late now to switch the operation to the supervision of Vasili Malik, who was anyway someone with whom so far he had had no contact. Belov felt trapped; trapped and helpless.

‘We are finally ready!' greeted Kazin. He was a small, fleshy man who perspired easily. He was sweating now, partially from an habitual nervousness which kept his leg pumping unseen beneath the desk, partially from the anticipation of how he could use the other man's idea to his own benefit.

‘Almost,' said Belov guardedly.

‘How long have we had John Willick as a CIA source?' asked Kazin.

‘Five years.'

‘Burned out?'

‘It was getting close,' said Belov. ‘He's being transferred. We don't know yet to what department.'

‘Suspicion?'

Why did Kazin need to query what was already in the report in front of him? Belov said: ‘He doesn't think so. There is some personality clash with a new department head.'

‘Sacrificial then?'

‘That was the intention, from the beginning,' reminded Belov.

‘Who is the conduit to be to the CIA?'

‘Kapalet,' said Belov. ‘He's been operating out of our embassy in Paris. We're sure Washington is convinced he's genuine.'

Kazin nodded, coming to the most important person in a deception that had taken years to evolve. ‘And Levin is ready?' he demanded.

‘We've simulated every imaginable possibility,' assured Belov. ‘He's never failed.' Yevgennie Pavlovich Levin was going to be a Hero of the Soviet Union but never acknowledged as such, Belov thought. He supposed the award could be given
in absentia.

‘The CIA will be thrown into turmoil,' said Kazin distantly. ‘Absolute and utter turmoil.' And I will be protected and saved from whatever changes are being considered, he thought.

‘Turmoil is not the intended purpose of the operation at all,' said Belov in further reminder.

Belatedly Kazin realized the other man's need. ‘It has been brilliantly conceived,' he said in delayed praise. ‘Absolutely brilliant.'

‘Thank you, Comrade First Deputy,' said Belov. Who else would ever learn it was his idea, he wondered. The answer was quick in coming.

Kazin gazed directly across the desk and said: ‘I intend taking full control of this operation.'

The whore's ass was going to steal the credit! Belov, who was adept at remaining dry-footed in the political swamp of Moscow, betrayed no facial reaction. He said: ‘I understand.'

‘You will be acknowledged the architect,' promised Kazin.

Liar, thought Belov. He said: ‘You are very generous, Comrade First Deputy.'

Kazin realized allies were going to be important in the coming months. He said: ‘You have my personal assurance on that.'

There was a legend, Belov remembered, that Stalin had been fond of assuring his victims of personal support just before sending them before the firing squads in Lubyanka. He said: ‘Shall I issue the orders?'

‘No!' refused Kazin, almost too quickly. More slowly he added: ‘I will decide the timing.'

Whore's ass, thought Belov again.

Alone once more in his office, Kazin stared unseeingly down at his desk, continuing in his determined order. The son first, he decided. That had always been the intention: why he'd manipulated the brat into the Directorate he governed, enjoying the thought of Malik's helplessness. The man had been politically astute in not trying to interfere over the Afghan posting of his son, although isolated as he had been in another Chief Directorate there would have been little he could have done anyway. But Malik had not been able to hold back after the slaughter of the military following the GRU fiasco. That's when the opportunity had come.

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