Spy released in U.S.-Russia swap is from Cockeysville

Galina Zaporozhsky was known on Willow Vista Way in Cockeysville for several things: the cookies she would bake every Christmas for her neighbors, the daily walks she liked to take and the fact that her husband Alexander was in prison in Russia after being convicted of spying for the U.S.

On Friday, in the largest spy swap since the Cold War, he was one of four men released by Moscow in exchange for 10 Russian sleeper agents arrested in the U.S. two weeks ago. It was unclear if or when he would return to his Cockeysville house, but in one respect, a homecoming would be bittersweet.


His wife died in October while he was serving an 18-year prison sentence in their homeland.

One of the couple's two grown sons now lives with his wife in his parents' home and the other lives nearby, according to a next-door neighbor, whose thoughts immediately turned to the young men when she heard the news of the spy swap.


"Gosh, wouldn't it be great if their father was released?" said Colleen Cavanaugh, a judge in Baltimore County's Orphans' Court. "He's done so much for this country. I hope he can come here and live a nice life."

Alexander Zaporozhsky, now 59, was a high-ranking KGB officer who was said to have provided information to U.S. authorities that helped them uncover two of the most damaging moles in the intelligence system, FBI agent Robert Hanssen and CIA agent Aldrich Ames.

Zaporozhsky left Russia in 1997 and moved with his wife and sons, Pavel and Maxim, to a $980,000 home in Cockeysville in 1999. State property records — which show the family name spelled as Zaporozhski — indicate he sold that house in June 2001 for $1.2 million and bought the Willow Vista home for $407,000.

In November 2001, he returned to Moscow either to visit family or attend a KGB reunion — Russian officials have said they "lured" him back to the country — and was arrested and charged with spying for the United States. In a secret trial in June 2003, he was convicted and imprisoned.

Back in his Cockeysville neighborhood, the quiet, leafy enclave seems far removed from the espionage drama unfolding over a series of international airports.

On Friday morning, two planes, one from Moscow and the other from New York, landed within minutes of each other in Vienna, Austria. The plane that originated in New York bore the 10 so-called sleeper agents who had been living typical American lives — raising kids in the suburbs, working as real estate agents, maintaining Facebook pages — while trying to infiltrate political and policymaking circles for information valuable to Russia.

Whether they were successful seems unclear, but they ultimately were traded for the four spies who arrived on the Moscow flight and who for the most part seemed to come from a much more conventional espionage background. Three of the four, including Zaporozhsky, were career intelligence officers in Russia.

Within 90 minutes, the planes departed again: The 10 agents arrested in the U.S. landed in Moscow several hours later, and the four spies released from prison in Russia went first to an air base in southern England, where two of them were dropped off, before landing late in the afternoon at Dulles International Airport in Northern Virginia. Zaporozhsky landed at Dulles, according to news reports.


On Friday afternoon, no one answered the door of the tidy, two-story house, where two cars were parked in front of the garage and yellow flowers bloomed on both sides of a walkway to the front door.

"They're always friendly, and nice to the kids," Cavanaugh said of the Zaporozhsky family. "They're just quiet and kind and wonderful."

Cavanaugh, who moved into her house after Alexander Zaporozhsky was jailed, said she never discussed him with his family, although his situation was known in the neighborhood. Cavanaugh said the couple's sons, whom she knows as Paul and Max, seemed very close to their mother and took care of her during her illness. She was 55 when she died.

"She was just the sweetest woman you'd ever want to meet," said Cavanaugh. "They would bring over Russian Christmas cookies at Christmastime."

A teenager in the neighborhood, who asked that his name not be used, also remembered the Christmas cookies, which he called "quite delicious."

Another neighbor, Nasin Sajedi, said she realized Galina Zaporozhsky was ailing when the woman stopped taking daily walks through the neighborhood. "She was a nice and sweet lady," said Sajedi, who works for the state's human resources department.


Befitting the murky world of spydom, Alexander Zaporozhsky's background is characterized by conflicting accounts. He was a highly decorated intelligence agent from 1975 to 1997, when he resigned. An official with Russia's Federal Security Service, a successor agency to the KGB, told the Los Angeles Times in 2003 that Zaporozhsky was recruited by the CIA in 1995 and worked as a double agent until 1997. The following year, he arrived in the Washington area, according to The Washington Post, describing himself as an immigrant. Russian news reports said he had defected.

In 1999, he bought his first home in Cockeysville, on Highfield Court, where neighbors told The Baltimore Sun in 2003 shortly after his conviction in Moscow that he was charming but so secretive that they joked he must be a spy.

"Nobody knew what he did for a living," one neighbor who requested anonymity told The Sun in 2003. "He worked on the computer all the time." The Sun article said state records showed that he ran a company called East-West International Business Consulting from his home. Russian authorities, though, say he worked for a company called Water Shipping, but no company by that name could be located.

His wife, interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in 2003, denied that he had turned on his native country, questioning why he would have returned to Moscow in 2001 if he had become an American agent.

"My husband is innocent. He has not betrayed his country," she told the newspaper. "Could any sober person believe that a person who felt guilty, let alone someone who committed an act of state treason, would ever risk going back to his home country of his free will?"