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Russian agents carried British and American “spies” with poisoned sherry, documents say

KGB’s Cold War secret weapon: Russian agents drugged British and American ‘spies’ with poisoned sherry so they could loot their hotel rooms for secrets, documents reveal

  • Files from the British National Archives tell of a 1967 Cold War story
  • A British military attaché and his American counterpart were seized from the winery
  • They were given a wine that made them “very ill” and unconscious

The KGB has drugged suspected British and American spies with poisoned wine after inviting them to taste “experimental sherries,” according to records.

The chemical nerve in the drinks caused the victims to experience amnesia before vomiting and passing out.

KGB criminals then burst into their hotel rooms and searched their unconscious bodies for Cold War secrets.

Files accidentally discovered in the British National Archives tell in great detail about a 1967 Cold War story.

British military attaché Brigadier Tony Harper and his American counterpart Colonel Bill Spahr were seized at a winery in Moldova

British military attaché Brigadier Tony Harper and his American counterpart Colonel Bill Spahr were seized at a winery in Moldova

The secret of a wine farm operating in the then Soviet Republic of Moldova was revealed when two victims woke up during a search. These victims included British military attaché Brigadier Tony Harper and his American counterpart, Colonel Bill Spahr.

They had diplomatic status, but during their tour of the USSR, the Kremlin thought they were gathering intelligence on Soviet troops.

So when the couple checked in at Hotel Kishinev in the capital of Moldova, the KGB was ready.

Like all foreigners at the time, diplomats had to arrange their travel plans through the state travel agency Intourist.

They suspected nothing when the representative offered to take them to an experimental wine factory that day at 4 pm to tour the factory and taste the wine.

The two men were determined to stay sober, the papers say, consuming no more than five sherry glasses. But when they left, they got one last wine in a bottle that arrived open and that no one else was drinking from.

The wine was dark red in color, very thick and oily. The texture was heavy and the taste didn’t exist, ‘the files said.

When they left, the brigadier general started “getting a little confused” and they couldn’t remember the ride back to the hotel. They managed to lock themselves in their room and were “very ill” before collapsing at 6:45 PM.

They were then taken to Moscow for questioning. Above is the former KGB headquarters in Moscow, Russia

They were then taken to Moscow for questioning. Above is the former KGB headquarters in Moscow, Russia

They were then taken to Moscow for questioning. Above is the former KGB headquarters in Moscow, Russia

Around 10:30 pm, five or six men, including a uniformed militia, a man in white overalls with a stethoscope, and a photographer, broke into the home.

The diplomats were held “violently” as the invaders ripped open their shirts to get to the straps of the body in which they carried their notebooks. But the search was so powerful that both men regained consciousness.

They protested that they were diplomats, but the criminals refused to believe them. They left around midnight after photographing all their documents and falsifying a police report alleging that the two men had been drunk and rowdy.

The diplomats returned to Moscow, where they were examined by an embassy doctor who concluded, “This seems to be a case of poisoning with a chemical with a sweet, pleasant taste, [mixed into] alcohol or water. ‘

Dr. Juliette Desplat, from the National Archives, said: “Serendipity often occurs during archival research. While looking for something unrelated, I came across a file entitled “Incident in Kishinev with British Military Attack” and I was not disappointed.

Both men survived the poisoning – Brigadier General Harper died in 1997 at the age of 80 and Colonel Spahr in 2011 at the age of 89.

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