Vladimir Putin was never the Soviet super spy he'd like us to believe. He was merely a KGB 'errand boy,' report says

Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin.MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has been portrayed as an elite KGB intelligence officer in the 1980s.

  • But a new report from Der Spiegel suggests he was never the super spy he was thought to be.

  • His role involved mainly "banal" administrative tasks such as sorting through travel applications.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was likely never the elite Soviet spy that the world has been led to believe, an investigaton by the German news outlet Der Spiegel has revealed.

Stories of Putin's exploits as an intelligence officer during the 1980s vary, and it is an era somewhat shrouded in mystery, as he has never commented on the period himself.

But many stories have painted him as a heroic figure, who, among other things, single-handedly defended the KGB's offices from looters and carried out top-secret secret missions such as meeting with members of the Red Army Faction, a terrorist group that wreaked havoc in West Germany and committed a series of kidnappings and assassinations.

But according to Der Spiegel's report, the majority of Putin's work was actually limited to "banal" administrative tasks.

Citing one of Putin's former colleagues at the KGB's Dresden office, it says his "work consisted primarily of endlessly reviewing applications for West German relatives' visits or searching for potential informants among foreign students at Dresden University."

The report says that Putin is rarely mentioned in Stasi — the name of the East German secret police — records. In those that do reference him, it is only in regards to things like his birthday or administrative tasks, none provide evidence to back up the stories mentioned previously.

Horst Jehmlich, a former Stasi officer who also worked in Dresden, told Der Spiegel that Putin was nothing more than an "errand boy."

Putin worked for the KGB, the Soviet Union's intelligence service, for nearly two decades. He moved to Dresden, in East Germany, in 1985 — a time when the country was on its last legs.

Just four years later, the Berlin Wall fell, marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War and taking a big step towards the reunification of Germany in 1990.

Officially he retired from active KGB service with the rank of lieutenant colonel.

But Oleg Kalugin, a former high-ranking KGB officer and fierce critic of Putin, told an interview with RFE/RL in 2015 that the would-be leader of Russia had lied and was "just a major."

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