Notorious KGB Spymaster Yuri Drozdov Dies at 91

Drozdov participated in the famous prisoner exchange of convicted Soviet undercover agent for downed American pilot, the inspiration behind Steven Spielberg's 'Bridge of Spies'

Photo of the former chief of KGB Directorate "S" general Yuri Drozdov and a former soviet NOC Sergey Zhirnov at the office of consulting firm Namakon, Moscow
Wikimedia/Stirlitz

Yuri Drozdov, the Soviet spymaster who oversaw a sprawling network of KGB agents abroad, died Wednesday. He was 91.

The Foreign Intelligence Service, a KGB successor agency known under its Russian acronym SVR, didn't give the cause of Drozdov's death or any other specifics in a terse statement.

Drozdov, a World War II veteran, joined the KGB in 1956 and was dispatched as a liaison officer with the East German secret police, the Stasi. In 1962, he took part in the exchange of Soviet undercover agent Rudolf Abel convicted in the U.S. for downed American spy plane pilot Francis Gary Powers.

The story was made into Steven Spielberg's blockbuster "Bridge of Spies" in 2015 as well as the Soviet movie "The Shield and the Sword," a 1968 classic that Russian President Vladimir Putin once said inspired him to join the KGB.

In December 1979, Drozdov led an operation to storm the palace of Afghan President Hafizullah Amin that paved the way for the Soviet invasion.

Drozdov also founded the KGB's Vympel special forces unit intended for covert operations abroad.

The SVR praised Drozdov as a "real Russian officer, a warm-hearted person and a wise leader."