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Spy who triggered the Cold War

world Updated: Jun 11, 2009 22:06 IST

Secret files have at last revealed the identity of the top spy who transfered Britain’s atomic bomb secrets to the Soviet Union and paved the way for the nuclear standoff with the west, triggering the Cold War for nearly five decades.

Though the MI5 suspected him, trailed him and monitored his every move, they were never able to get the man, codenamed "Eric" by the KGB, whose espionage campaign to steal the Allies’ nuclear bomb plans was codenamed “Enormous”.

Declassified MI5 files have confirmed that the master spy, described as the "main source", was a Soviet mole at the Cavendish Laboratories at the University of Cambridge, the heart of the wartime nuclear research programme.

Today, 70 years later, with the opening of MI5 and KGB files, "Eric" can finally be identified as Engelbert (Bertie) Broda, whose story is a tale of espionage and counter-espionage, elaborate spycraft, love and deception.

Broda was the KGB’s prize spy, who fed Britain’s nuclear secrets to Moscow for a decade, including the blueprint for the early nuclear reactor used in the US Manhattan Project, Times online reported today.

"Eric’s" secrets enabled the communist state to catch up in the race to build the nuclear bomb and set the stage for nearly five decades of nuclear standoff with the West.

Though the KGB archives of the period are now sealed, a brief window in the mid-1990s provided a KGB officer named Alexander Vassiliev access to the files.

Vassiliev’s notes form the basis of a new book, published in the US this month, revealing Broda’s pivotal role in Soviet atomic espionage.