In 1959, at the age of 31, Nikolai Artamonov defected to Sweden with his Polish girlfriend in a motorboat
stolen from the destroyer he commanded. He left behind his wife and son in Gdansk and was resettled in the United States, where he became a consultant for the Defense Intelligence Agency, specializing in the Baltic Fleet.
In 1966 the KGB attempted to recruit Artamonov, then living in Washington, D.C., under the alias Nicholas Shadrin. When he reported the pitch to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he was run as a double agent. Though exceptionally risky, the operation was sustained because his Soviet handler, Igor Kochnov, had approachedthe FBI with an offer to spy and there was a desire to enhance his standing within the rezidentura by allowing him to appear to be receiving useful information from Artamonov. However, in December 1975 Artamonov attended an ostensibly routine rendezvous with the KGB in Vienna and was abducted.
Although Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev himself subsequently denied any Soviet knowledge of Artamonov’s fate, the defector Vitali Yurchenko revealed that he had died accidentally, of an overdose of a sedative, while being driven over the Austrian border to Czechoslovakia. Naturally, the FBI and Central Intelligence Agency were anxious to protect Kochnov, but litigation brought against the U.S. government by Artamonov’s widow Ewa Shadrin forced the admission that Artamonov had been used from the outset as a double agent.