Alexander Vavilov, 25, (seen in 2017) was granted Canadian citizenship by the country’s Supreme Court on Thursday
Canada’s Supreme Court has granted citizenship to the 25-year-old son of two Russian spies who inspired The Americans.
Alexander Vavilov, 25, and his older brother Timofey, 29, were both born in the early 90s Toronto hospitals while their parents, Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, worked in Canada on behalf of The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service.
They had arrived in Canada years earlier, and had stolen the identities of Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley.
In 1995, the family moved from Canada to Paris. In 1999, they settled in Massachusetts, where they lived quietly until 2010 when Andrey and Elena were arrested along with eight other Russian spies who had been living illegally in America.
The boys had their green cards revoked and went to live in Russia where they changed their names.
They have since been in a fight to obtain citizenship in Canada and say they had no idea their parents were spies. The pair claimed that when they were left ‘traumatized’ by the revelation in 2010.
They say their life has been miserable in Russia and that Canada is the only place where they feel they belong.
Andrey Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova, worked in Canada on behalf of The Russian Foreign Intelligence Service. They moved to Canada in the 1980s and stolen the identities of two dead natives. The pair were busted along with other sleeper agents in 2010
Alexander and his older brother Timofey (shown, left) said they never knew their parents were spies. In 1995, they left Canada and moved to Paris. The family then settled in Massachusetts in 1999
The boys with their father as children. It was reported that the parents were grooming their children to become spies later in life – they deny it
The Canadian government fought their claims and even suggested Timofey was being groomed to become a spy himself.
Canada, like the U.S., grants citizenship to anyone born within its territory with limited exceptions such as the children of diplomats.
The government argud that Vavilov’s parents were employees or representatives of a foreign government and thus ineligible. But the attorney for the brothers says they were not official representatives; because they were undercover, they never publicly represented Russia.
Both fought for citizenship but Alexander’s case was further along the process hence why only his was decided on Thursday.
He had applied to renew his passport in 2010 but was denied it on the grounds that he was not entitled to it because he was the son of ‘a diplomatic or consular officer or other representative or employee in Canada of a foreign government.’
He appealed the decision and a federal court agreed with him, saying he should not be punished for his parents’ actions.
‘The sins of parents ought not to be visited upon children without clear authorization by law,’ Justice David Stratas wrote in his decision.
The Canadian government appealed the decision, taking it to the Supreme Court, which sided with Alexander on Thursday.
The Supreme Court made its decision based on the technicality of whether or not the parents ever received the kind of immunity that diplomats do – ie not having to pay taxes.
It found that while the parents were employees of Russia, they technically also lived under the guise of the Canadian citizens whose identities they had assumed.
In 2010, the boys had their Canadian passports revoked and were deported to Russia. They are pictured then
The brothers, in a more recent images, said they never felt at home in Russia or anywhere but Canada
The home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where the family lived for years, pretending they were Canadians
In the decision on Thursday morning, the justices wrote: ‘Ms. Vavilova and Mr. Bezrukov were deployed to Canada to establish false personal histories as Western citizens.
‘They worked, ran a business, pursued higher education and, as noted, had two children here. After their second son was born, the family moved to France, and later to the United States. In the United States, Mr. Bezrukov obtained a Masters of Public Administration at Harvard University and worked as a consultant, all while working to collect information on a variety of sensitive national security issues for the SVR.
‘The nature of the undercover work of Ms. Vavilova and Mr. Bezrukov meant that there was no point at which either of them had any publicly acknowledged affiliation with the Russian state, held any official diplomatic or consular status, or had been granted any diplomatic privilege or immunity.’
The parents are pictured in May, promoting a book about their ordeal in Russia
The story of the sleeper agents inspired the FX series The Americans
Timofey’s case has not yet been decided but it is reasonable to assume he will be given the same decision.
A Wall Street Journal report in 2012 stated that officials believed Bezrukov and Elena Vavilova were grooming their sons to become the next generation of spies.
Tim, who was 20 when his parents were arrested and a student at George Washington University, reportedly stood up and saluted ‘Mother Russia’ when asked to follow in his parents’ footsteps, officials said.
He also agreed to travel to Russia to start formal training, they added.
Officials did not reveal where or when the conversation between Tim and his parents took place or if he went to Russia before their arrests, although he did eventually go there.
A lawyer who acted for the family dismissed the allegations of grooming the children as ‘c**p’.
The spy ring was busted in 2010; the FBI had known about it for a decade and their homes were bugged. A background check for a job with the government might have led to their arrests.
Officials said information gathered from surveillance suggested there was a longer-term plan to recruit more of their children. The 10 agents had seven children, aged between one and 20.
Ten ‘sleeper’ agents were arrested in 2010. They had seven children between them who, the government said, they were preparing to groom. None of the other kids have tried to obtain citizenship