September 1970, TASS (the Soviet states news agency) reporter Yuri Ustimenko arrives on Irish shores. The British government feared that the arrival of Ustimenko to Ireland and believed his presence could compromise British national security, claiming that he was a “KGB man”. Decisive intervention was needed. The British government insisted that the Irish authorities imposed travel restrictions on Ustimenko. He was to give 48 hours notice if he intended to travel outside Ireland, this would include crossing into Northern Ireland.

The Russian embassy in Dublin was established 3 years later in 1973. The arrival Soviet Diplomats to Dublin came with a set of regulations, also upon the request of the British government. One of these regulations, included a version of the travel restrictions imposed on Ustimenkos. Diplomats working at the embassy were not allowed to travel more than 25km from the embassy without requesting permission from the authorities. This invisible border within the Republic of Ireland was not well known to the general public, not until it was brought to everyone's attention in 1983.

On 10th September 1983 news broke that Moscow was using Ireland as a base for spying, one newspaper stating that Ireland was used as a clearing house for information gathered from all across Europe. This news came with the announcement that Viktor Lipassov, a diplomat working out of the Soviet Embassy, was to be expelled along with his wife Evdokia. Very little information was released, but it was stated that expelled was involved in “unacceptable behaviour” and operating as a KGB agent. The Soviet embassy claimed to be shocked at these allegations. The man who was responsible for delivering the news to the Soviet embassy was Jim O’Keeffe, the foreign minister at the time. O’Keeffe was later to be nicknamed the Skibbereen Eagle, after an old newspaper from his hometown Skibbereen in Cork.

Even though Victor Lipassov was previously mentioned as a KGB operative in a book written by Jon Barron about the KGB in 1974, he seemed to be an unlikely candidate. He and his wife, Evdokia, were middle aged and had grandchildren back in Russia. Victors job in the embassy was issuing visas. Evdokia was not officially employed by the embassy, but she was known to come in to help Victor from time to time if his work load was too much. Two weeks before the expulsion their car was stolen. It was later recovered in Finglas situated north of Dublin city. The car was vandalised and two bottles of vodka were stolen. It is still unclear whether this was connected to the event.

There were concerns over a trip that the Lipassovs had allegedly taken to Co. Donegal, situated on the north west coast of Ireland. It was reported that the Lipassovs had not declared this trip to the Irish authorities. This ignited speculation about what they might have been doing during their time there. There was fear that the Lipassovs may have been signalling information to undercover ships offshore. Speculation of Soviet submarine activity in the area did not help calm these fears. Ireland being a neutral country, the level of surveillance on the water would have been low to none, making it a perfect location to relay information undetected.

More information on how the expelled were discovered began to appear in the press within a matter of days. There were accounts of a sting operation involving an American spy, but all governing bodies involved seemed to be tactically silent. How long this agent may have been operating in the country, and whether the Irish government knew they were operating in the country is still unclear. The “sting” took place in Stillorgan shopping centre, in the leafy suburbs of South Dublin. It was Irelands first shopping centre and the last place a spy story would be expected to unfold.

On 14th September the Lipassovs leave Ireland from Shannon Airport. Viktor Lipassov, in an interview on RTE news, claims the innocence of him and his wife. His body language on camera stated differently. He also made it clear how ridiculous it was that his wife could even be a suspect, as she could not speak English or even drive a car. The only news coverage on Evdokia at the time was about the coat she wore and the flowers that were gifted to her from the Irish people.

It wasn’t until later that some further investigation uncovered that Evdokia played a bigger role in the events. Evdokia was not officially employed by the embassy, therefore she did not have the same travel restrictions as her husband. This meant that she could travel freely around Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK. During these trips Evdokia met with other KGB operatives and members of the IRA. The IRA were receiving arms from the Soviet Union in exchange for information they were gathering on the communication methods and training drills of the British Army. The KGB were not particularly interested in the cause of the IRA, this transaction was part of a larger goal, called “Active Measures”, to undermine the UK and USA by any means possible.

In this work I have revisited the border of this travel restriction zone, and connected sites in and outside of it. The invisible border cuts through four counties in the Republic of Ireland and is crossed everyday, at multiple spots by people who has no idea of its presence or purpose. Despite Britains best efforts, the border was in fact proven meaningless by Evdokia Lippasov. 

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