Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • My first assignment was to get rid of the exiled Ukrainian intellectual, Lev Rebet.

  • This man, once a key player in the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and later the deputy

  • prime minister of the Ukrainian government, became a thorn in the side of the Soviet Union.

  • He had to go.

  • I watched in the background as Rebet walked through the Stachus, a grand square in central

  • Munich where he wrote his anticommunist articles in a small office.

  • As he entered that office building, I followed him almost to the door of his newspaper.

  • I remember it vividly.

  • How he walked without a care in the world, briefcase in hand, just ambling along without

  • any protection in sight.

  • That was his major downfall; his brazenness.

  • Surely he must have known that he was on the kill list of the KGB.

  • He began to walk up a staircase, and suddenly I was right in his face.

  • I quickly pulled out my state of the art single barrel poison gun that contained a hydrogen

  • cyanide capsule and I blasted a cloud of mist in his face.

  • He dropped right away, as if he'd been struck down by the devil himself.

  • I walked away casually, putting the gun under the newspaper where it had been previously

  • hidden, leaving the man strung over the staircase.

  • There was nothing that could be done for him; I had done my job well and would later be

  • commended for it.

  • Better still, because of the nature of the poison used, the authorities thought the cause

  • of death was a massive cardiac arrestand that's why the KGB loved their cyanide.

  • The problem was never the fact that cyanide poisoning wasn't certain death, it was how

  • to get a man in public; how to create a weapon that could blast the mist with accuracy.

  • Well, we had guys in our secret laboratory, The Cell, to sort that problem out.

  • ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- That scene, which happened on 10 October 1957,

  • starred a KGB assassin named Bohdan Stashynsky.

  • While there were plenty of assassinations undertaken by the KGB, Stashynsky is a man

  • whose name is perhaps the best known.

  • His assassination of Rebet has gone down in history, but it was by no means his most infamous

  • act while taking orders from the KGB.

  • He would kill again, and he would use new and improved weapons.

  • But first, we should ask the question; how does a man become an assassin for the KGB?

  • That's not a job that would appear in the local newspaper; it's not even a vocation

  • that one would tell his own family about.

  • Stashynsky was born in a village outside the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

  • Back then, in 1931, this city was part of Poland but it later became part of the Soviet

  • Union after Germany and the Soviets invaded Poland.

  • Stashynsky certainly grew up in a tumultuous time.

  • His three sisters became part of what was called the anti-SovietUkrainian Insurgent

  • Army”, but it seems young Bohdan was not on board with them.

  • When he was just 19 years old he was arrested for travelling on a train and not having a

  • ticket.

  • We can't tell how it happened or what kind of duress Stashynsky faced, but during that

  • arrest he agreed that he would spy for the Soviet secret police.

  • And with his sisters as part of the anti-Soviet insurgent army, STashynksy was well placed

  • to leak vital intelligence to the Soviets.

  • At home he pretended everything was normal, and then he'd go and report what he heard

  • to the secret police, which was then part of something called the MGB, or Ministry of

  • State Security.

  • Stashynsky became such a valuable asset, and so good at his job, that while still in his

  • early twenties he was sent to work as an undercover agent in Kiev and later East Germany.

  • It was there that he studied German until he was fluent, and after that he started using

  • the name Josef Lehmann.

  • Now the Soviets had a spy working in Germany that could pass off as German and move between

  • East and West Germany.

  • If anyone asked him, he was born to Polish-German parents.

  • He kept the same birthday so he'd never forget if asked, but for some reason he made

  • himself one year older.

  • He was fluent in German, but the problem was his accent wasn't exactly perfect.

  • Because of this, Stashynsky made up a back story that he had lived in Poland and Ukraine

  • before.

  • In fact, he even visited all the places he had supposedly grown up in and lived in and

  • could recount tales of what he had done in those places.

  • Such was the work of a spythose guys had to be great actors and be able to talk about

  • a past that didn't exist- not exactly easy when staring down the barrel of a gun.

  • Stashynsky eventually set up shop in East Berlin and was met by a handler for the secret

  • police.

  • Our soon-to-be assassin honed his spycraft amongst other Soviet and East German spies,

  • while making contact with military and political leadership.

  • Soon, Stashynksy's talents for killing would be discovered, and put to the test.

  • In 1954, Berlin had not yet been divided by fences and barbed wire, and so often spies

  • from the compound would take off and go do their business in the West.

  • At the same time, Western Intelligence, mainly the secret services of the Americans, British

  • and the French, were doing the job of espionage in the East.

  • There were checkpoints here and there, but those could easily be bypassed.

  • Berlin was literally full of spies, with one former British spy who became a double agent

  • for the Soviets, a man named George Blake, saying it was so crazy he felt that every

  • other adult male he saw was likely in some way spying for one of the sides.

  • Like a giant game of very dangerous cat and mouse, spies circled each other on Berlin's

  • streets, with their life only ever being one trigger pull away from being over

  • The Soviets originally planned for Stashynsky to move into a management position in some

  • corporate office, but because of his not-quite-perfect German accent, it was decided he would draw

  • too much attention.

  • The Soviets lost faith in Stashynsky being able to remain undetected, after all in a

  • city full of spies the guy with the funny accent was going to draw a lot of suspicion.

  • Then they decided he would work as a laborer, just like in any other place in the world,

  • nobody pays attention to the laborer with a funny accent.

  • One of the men that Soviets spies had their eye on for elimination was named Stepan Bandera.

  • He was a far right-wing Ukrainian ultranationalist who held some rather hardline views.

  • He wanted to unite Ukraine, but in the style ofUkraine for Ukrainiansonly.

  • Ukraine would be made great again by kicking everybody who wasn't Ukranian out- and that

  • of course included the Soviets.

  • Yet Bandera was not an easy man to get to.

  • Paranoid and with a suspicion that the Soviet Union might be out for his blood given his

  • anti-Soviet views, Bandera exiled himself in West Germany and had plenty of security

  • around him.

  • His time would come, but first the Soviets decided to go for an easier target, a man

  • who happened to be enemies with Bandera, and the victim we introduced you to at the start

  • of this show, Lev Rebet.

  • Rebet wanted to unite Ukraine, but not in the same fashion as Bandera.

  • Both these men you will see became related in a kind of way, despite their differences.

  • Rebet was an intellectual, a journalist, a book writer and a newspaper editor.

  • Bandera called him stooge for the CIA, but where both men were similar is that they were

  • both anti-communist.

  • Now back to our assassin, Mr. Stashynsky.

  • He was told by his bosses in the KGB that both these men were dangerous, but Bandera

  • was hard to get close to.

  • On the other hand, Rebet didn't walk around with bodyguards since he probably thought

  • that writing intelligent articles that espoused Ukrainian unity wasn't something he would

  • be killed for.

  • As you know, he was wrong and it cost him his life.

  • Before he could get through the office door, Stashynsky blasted cyanide mist in his face.

  • The KGB hadn't at first decided to kill Rebet, and in fact the plan had been to spike

  • his food, knock him out, take him to East Germany and coerce him to say that he had

  • defected.

  • After that he would be forced to write propagandistic articles about how bad the west was.

  • That plan changed, and Stashynsky was told his mission was to kill Rebet.

  • He wasn't happy about this at all, since he wasn't keen on murdering someone, but

  • he knew if he turned down an order it would likely lead to his own death.

  • On October 9th, 1957, a man arrived at Tempelhof Airport in West Berlin carrying 100 marks

  • and a suitcase containing two large cans of sausages.

  • It was Stashynsky, moving under a different name.

  • He had flown in from France on a West German passport, but inside West Germany he was told

  • to use his East German passport that had in it the name Josef Lehmann.

  • Only one of those cans actually contained sausages.

  • The other contained a poison gun.

  • On October 10, Stashynsky swallowed an antidote pill.

  • He was told to take one before the assassination and one after the job was done, and that way

  • he wouldn't fall ill or die if the mist got into his own system.

  • He had ten pills in all, just in case his plan failed.

  • In the morning he was observing some offices in a plush part of town, which could obviously

  • arouse suspicion given the hectic times.

  • If the police asked him what he was doing he was told to tell them that he was merely

  • a tourist and he was just looking at the marvelous architecture.

  • As you know, that morning he would get his man.

  • Forensic scientists would rule the death as a heart attack, which Rebet's wife didn't

  • believe since her husband had never had any heart problems.

  • The killing didn't stop there.

  • In January 1959, Stashynsky was given another task.

  • This time his mission was to find out where Stepan Bandera lived.

  • Again he flew to Munich under a West German passport but this time as a man named Hans.

  • The KGB thought they knew where Bandera lived, but when Stashynsky went to check the address

  • out he discovered that Bandera wasn't living there.

  • The KGB told him he might be living under the name Stefen Popel, so Stashynsky looked

  • in the phone directory for such a person and he found one.

  • He went to that address and hid for a while, and lo and behold, he saw Bandera arrive there.

  • The KGB then had one more message for Stashynsky.

  • Your order is toliquidatethe target in the same way you did Rebet.

  • First he returned to Moscow to pick up the weapon.

  • This time it was a vastly improved double barrel poison gun.

  • He was told that Bandera would likely have a bodyguard with him, so now he could take

  • them both out.

  • They gave him his antidote pills and said off you go, don't fail, the Soviet Union

  • needs you.

  • Oh, and one other thing they gave him was a set of keys for Bandera's apartment building.

  • Don't ask us how they got those.

  • The plan was to secretly enter the building and then get Bandera as soon as he walked

  • in.

  • Stashynsky did his due diligence and watched the apartment for a few days.

  • Most times Bandera was with his bodyguard, but then one night he saw him walking alone.

  • He had his chance.

  • It was now or never.

  • But for some reason, Stashynsky couldn't go through with it.

  • Instead, he turned his back, shot the gun at the floor, and dumped it in a stream.

  • He also broke the key to the apartment, which was all a ruse so he could tell his superiors

  • that he'd tried to go through with the assassination but it failed.

  • The KGB were less than impressed when Stashynsky told them in Moscow what had happened and

  • they sent him right back to Munich.

  • On October 15, 1959, he swallowed his antidote pill and went to Bandera's apartment building.

  • He was pretty sure his handlers were watching him this time so knew he had to go through

  • with it.

  • He used a new set of keys to get into the building and laid in wait.

  • At the moment that he knew Bandera was trying to open the door he stood waiting with his

  • poison gun hidden under a newspaper.

  • It took some time, because Bandera was holding a bag of vegetables and couldn't quite get

  • the door open.

  • Stashynsky just waited on the other side, thinking c'mon, come in.

  • He finally did and out of sheer nervousness he gave him both barrels of the gun into his

  • face.

  • Bandera dropped to the floor and off Stashynsky went into the busy streets.

  • The next day at the airport he read the story about how Bandera, known to his neighbors

  • as Popel, had mysteriously died...He'd just fallen to the ground inside his apartment

  • complex.

  • The death looked like natural causes, said the newspaper.

  • The autopsy actually revealed that the cause of death was cyanide poisoning, but the police

  • kept this hidden from the public for as long as they could.

  • The cops believed that they could have a suicide on their hands, but it seemed unlikely, given

  • that Bandera was so strong-willed.

  • You have to remember that cyanide guns were pretty high tech killing devices so it confounded

  • the cops how cyanide could have gotten into Bandera's system.

  • Back in Moscow, Stashynsky was given theOrder of the Red Bannerfor his actions and was

  • cheered by his colleagues.

  • But that didn't mean he could hang his gloves up.

  • He was told he had one last assignment and that was to assassinate the anti-Soviet Ukrainian

  • nationalist leader, Yaroslav Stetsko.

  • By this time Stashynsky had fallen in love with an East German woman and was falling

  • out of love with the KGB.

  • He wanted out, but how to get outthey wouldn't even let him be there for the birth of his

  • own son.

  • When that son was four months old he suddenly died, and the KGB told Stashynsky that he

  • could go back to East Berlin for the funeral, but not as Joseph Lehmann.

  • Stashynsky had had it with the KGB.

  • He took that fake ID, got his wife, passed through into West Berlin and then got a flight

  • to the USA.

  • He had defected, and that's what he told the U.S. authorities.

  • Ok, so that sounds truthful to you guys watching this show, but what was the U.S. supposed

  • to think.

  • Maybe Stashynsky hadn't actually defected and was in fact still a spy, a kind of Trojan

  • Horse.

  • The CIA flew him back to Germany and interrogated him there.

  • They didn't want the man on U.S. soil.

  • The thing was, though, Stashynsky could describe in detail what had happened to Rebet and BanderaHe

  • could recount details that only the cops knew.

  • Not only that, the police and secret services at this point had no idea that Rebet had been

  • assassinated.

  • The CIA still thought that death by poison spray gun was over the top; they'd never

  • heard of such a thing.

  • In documents that would later be revealed, the CIA wrote that Stashynsky, “would not

  • be valuable operationally as a double agent, that he was not a bona fide defector and the

  • individual he purported to be.”

  • Nonetheless, he was imprisoned in 1962 for two murders, but got out in '66.

  • What happened to him and his wife after that we don't exactly knowWe found one newspaper

  • clipping from 1984 on the CIA's website that said he was sent to South Africa and

  • he didn't only get a new name, but also underwent extensive cosmetic surgery.

  • Now you need to watch this video, “KGB SECRETS (And Why It Fell Apart)” or this video,

  • CIA vs KGB - Which Was Better During the Cold War?”

My first assignment was to get rid of the exiled Ukrainian intellectual, Lev Rebet.

Subtitles and vocabulary

Operation of videos Adjust the video here to display the subtitles

B1 kgb ukrainian soviet gun cyanide german

The KGB Assassin With a Poison Gun

  • 1 0
    Summer posted on 2021/10/10