Image: Anna Chapman
Maxim Magazine via AP
Spy Anna Chapman appears in Maxim magazine's November 2010 Russia issue.
msnbc.com
updated 11/18/2010 9:40:07 PM ET 2010-11-19T02:40:07

A former KGB special forces soldier is being investigated as the double agent who tipped U.S. authorities to a Russian spy ring that included Anna Chapman and nine others, European media reported Thursday.

Col. Alexander Poteyev, who served in the U.S. as part of the Russian intelligence service, is being looked by Russian authorities as part of a criminal probe for "high treason," Russian intelligence sources told the Interfax news service.

"As far as I know, a criminal case has been opened into Poteyev's treachery and it perhaps concerns high treason, a crime with which Article 275 of the Russian Criminal Code deals. Investigators are working," the source told Interfax.

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Poteyev was a member of the KGB's elite "Zenith" Special Forces unit during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and his father was a hero in the former Soviet Union, the U.K.’s Telegraph reported.

Chapman, a glamorous redhead who posted racy pictures on her Facebook page while in the U.S., was deported with nine others in July as part of the biggest spy swap since the Cold War. Since, she’s appeared in a glossy magazine spread and was awarded the highest state honors by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

Although celebrated by the Kremlin and Russian media, the spy ring was reported to have failed to secure any major intelligence before their arrests in the United States.

Still, their exposure was considered an embarrassment to Russian authorities who have since tried to identify the double agent who betrayed the Kremlin.

Medvedev ordered an investigation into the agency that ran the compromised agents.

A KGB veteran who served with Poteyev in Afghanistan on Thursday called Poteyev a "non-person."

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"This non-person will live a lonely life until the end of his days in fear," Fyodor Yakovlev told the Regnum news agency. "Lonely because his relatives and loved ones will not be by his side. Either his children will have to alter their appearances or else they will be doomed to the same nightmarish existence as their father."

The suspected double agent was at first reported as a man with a similar profile, Col. Shcherbakov, though reports now say he had fled Russia too early to be the tipster.

Poteyev is thought to have fled to the United States.

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