Soviet intelligence services secretly bugged communications equipment at the French Embassy in Moscow for more than five years, according to official documents obtained by a leading French news magazine.
The revelations, which are to be published in next week's edition of the magazine Le Point, seem likely to add fuel to a controversy here over the scale of Kremlin espionage operations against the West.
A spate of officially inspired leaks of intelligence information has appeared in the French news media during the past week to mark the second anniversary of the French government's expulsion of 47 Soviet officials in Paris for alleged spying. The Soviet Embassy here has protested the leaks to the French Foreign Ministry.
French journalists have been told by contacts in the French counterintelligence service DST that many documents being leaked to the press were supplied by a KGB colonel. The colonel, whose name and whereabouts are being kept secret, is reported to have supplied names of KGB officers stationed abroad.
The Le Point report said that the Soviet colonel's revelations had led to the expulsion of 148 Soviet officials worldwide in 1983 -- a sharp increase over the 34 expulsions in 1982.
Le Point published the text of a message from the French Embassy in Moscow to the Foreign Ministry in Paris on Jan. 11, 1983, stating that electronic bugs had been found in all of the embassy's teleprinters.
The magazine's intelligence specialist, Thierry Wolton, said that the bugging of the teleprinters -- which were installed in the embassy between October 1976 and February 1977 -- meant that the Soviet secret police, the KGB, had access "to all the diplomatic messages received and sent by our embassy in Moscow, including the most secret."
A French Foreign Ministry spokesman refused to comment on the magazine's allegations.
Soviet intelligence documents published by Le Monde and the government-owned television channel TF1 earlier this week suggested that 65 percent of the western technological secrets stolen by Soviet spies were of U.S. origin and that 8 percent were French.
A French translation of one of the documents, signed by Leonid Smirnov, head of the Soviet Military Industrial Commission, claimed that the Soviets had succeeded in finding ways to jam the U.S. antitank guided missile system known as TOW, or "tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided" missile. TOW was used by NATO forces in Western Europe to counter the Warsaw Pact's numerical advantage in tanks.
Last night TF1 broadcast a television documentary in which a French counterintelligence officer was seen quoting passages from the document, which was described as a summary of Soviet industrial espionage activities in 1979-82. The document said that construction of both the Soviet MiG29 and Su27 fighter planes had been assisted by western technologies.
Smirnov, who is a Soviet deputy premier, was quoted as praising the work of Soviet "special services" in carrying out their work abroad. But he criticized delays in "analyzing the documents" and other bureaucratic problems.
The French intelligence officer, whose name was not given, said that 244 French firms -- particularly in the electronics and space sectors -- had been selected as possible targets by the KGB.
Political analysts here believe that the sudden spate of leaks could be designed as a warning to the Soviet Union against resuming intensive espionage operations in France. They also note that the leaks support the claims of President Francois Mitterrand to have taken a tougher line with Moscow than his conservative predecessors.