The American-educated president of Afghanistan, Hafizmullah Amin was shot dead during Operation OAK, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, over Christmas 1979, during which the KGB, supported by GRU Spetsnaz troops, had surrounded the Duralamin Palace in Kabul. The assassination had been authorized by Yuri Andropov, one of the four members of the Politburo on 12 December, the others being General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev himself, Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, and Defense Minister Dmitri Ustinov. As the elite 105th Guards Air Assault Division landed in Kabul and Bagram and four motorized rifle divisions poured over the Oxus River, two battalions of paratroops fought their way into the palace complex and took control while the KGB and Spetsnaz teams put Amin and his supporters up against a wall and shot them on 27 December.
The assassination plot, code named AGATE, was first disclosed by the KGB defector Vladimir Kuzichkin, himself an experienced Directorate S officer, who revealed that an Azerbaijani illegal, Mikhail Talybov, had been infiltrated into the palace as a chef with instructions to poison Amin’s food, but the opportunity never arose. After Brezhnev had approved a full-scale invasion, the head of Directorate S, Vadim V. Kirpichenko, flew into Kabul to supervise the operation, together with the head of Department 8, Vladimir Krasovsky, and his deputy, Aleksandr Lazarenko. Unexpectedly, the Alpha and Zenith special forces, which had practiced for weeks at the KGB’s training center at Balashikha, encountered much stronger resistance than had been anticipated and more than a hundred of the elite troops perished in the firefight, among them the leader of the main assault, Col. Grigori Boyarinov. President Amin was replaced by the Kremlin’s nominee, Babrak Kamal.