MOSCOW (AP) — A former British intelligence officer who once worked as a double agent for the Soviet Union said Russian spies now have "the difficult and critical mission" of saving the world, according to a statement released Friday.
George Blake has lived in Russia since his escape from a British prison in 1966. He turns 95 on Saturday.
Blake said in a statement that the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service must "save the world in a situation when the danger of nuclear war and the resulting self-destruction of humankind again have been put on the agenda by irresponsible politicians."
"It's a true battle between good and evil," he said in comments released by the intelligence service, or SVR, and carried by Russian news agencies.
Blake also said terrorism has "left bloody traces in many corners of the world."
SVR said that Blake was not available to interview on Friday. His last in-person interviews were in 2012 for a documentary by a Russian state television station and for a Russian government daily.
Born in the Netherlands, Blake joined British intelligence during World War II. He was posted to Korea when the war there erupted in 1950 and was detained by the Communist North. He said he volunteered to work for the Soviet Union after witnessing relentless U.S. bombing of North Korea.
In Friday's statement, Blake emphasized again that he decided to switch sides after seeing civilians massacred by the "American military machine."
"I realized back then that such conflicts are deadly dangerous for the entire humankind and made the most important decision in my life — to cooperate with the Soviet intelligence voluntarily and for free to help protect peace in the world," Blake said in the Russian statement.
He added that Russia has become his "second motherland," and thanked SVR officers for their friendship and understanding.
"I believe that you will serve our common cause selflessly and courageously," he said to SVR officers. "I believe in the final victory over the treacherous enemy. This belief has given me strength."
As a double agent, Blake passed some of the most coveted British secrets to the Soviet Union, including a Western plan to eavesdrop on Soviet communications from an underground tunnel into East Berlin.
SVR chief Sergei Naryshkin congratulated Blake on his birthday, saying Blake had been a role model for the agency's officers.
A Polish defector exposed Blake as a spy for Russia in 1961. He was convicted on spying charges in Britain and sentenced to 42 years in prison. In October 1966, he made a dashing escape with help from several people he met while in custody.
Blake spent two months hiding at his assistant's place and was then driven across Europe to East Berlin inside a wooden box attached under a car.
Blake said in a 2012 interview with the Russian government newspaper that he had adapted well to life in Russia. He once joked he's like a "foreign-made car that adapted well to Russian roads."