“Books have been written about him, films have been made. In intelligence, he was highly respected and appreciated,” a spokesperson for Russian foreign intelligence agency SVR said on December 26, according to the agency.
“In intelligence, he was highly respected and appreciated. He himself jokingly said: ‘I am a foreign car that has adapted to Russian roads,'” the statement added.
Blake was a double agent, who used his position as an officer in the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), also known as MI6, to spy for the Soviet Union.
He was the last in a line of British spies whose secret work for the Soviet Union humiliated the country’s intelligence establishment when it was discovered at the height of the Cold War.
Blake was born in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, in 1922, moved to England in 1942 and transferred to the Dutch section of the SIS in August 1944.
“Blake returned from captivity to work for Soviet as well as British intelligence, betraying many agents who were later executed, including a network in East Germany,” an entry on his life on the UK government website reads.
British authorities arrested Blake in April 1961 and he admitted to being a double agent for the Soviet Union.
The spy was sentenced to 42 years in jail but escaped in 1966 with the help of other inmates and two peace activists, after scaling the prison wall with a ladder made from knitting needles.
Blake was smuggled out of Britain in a camper van and made it through Western Europe undiscovered, crossing the Iron Curtain into East Berlin.
He spent the rest of his life in the Soviet Union and then Russia, where he was feted as a hero.
Reflecting on his life in an interview with Reuters in Moscow in 1991, Blake said he had believed the world was on the eve of Communism.
“It was an ideal which, if it could have been achieved, would have been well worth it,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin granted the double agent the country’s Order of Friendship in 2007. Putin issued a statement of condolence after Blake’s death, which was published on the Kremlin website.
“Colonel Blake was a brilliant professional of special vitality and courage,” Putin said.
“Over the years of hard, strenuous work, he made a truly invaluable contribution to ensuring strategic parity and maintaining peace on the planet,” the statement added.
UK authorities believe the spy betrayed around 42 British agents, though Blake claimed that the true tally was around 600.