“None of the locals go here. The view is nice, but it’s too expensive,” said my friend from Kiev. Drink prices were triple, make that quadruple, what they were compared to my late afternoon beer near the city centre.

I slid the door open and stepped out into the harsh, cold night air; it was below zero degrees celsius, and I was standing on the rooftop of a posh Kiev local spy haunt. The view of the city and river was incredible but the icy air gave me BUD/S flashbacks and I was back inside within a few minutes. Inside, it was warm, but the scene was too weird. An Arab to my right was flanked by three prostitutes. To my left were two diplomats with English accents, and they looked like they were also sampling the local talent. I was on the dimly lit rooftop of the Intercontinental Hotel’s “b hush”.

You see, every city with an embassy has their spy bar hangouts. Wait one, it’s not what you’re thinking. I’m not talking about some bar where a clandestine meet-up takes place between some hot-looking Bond girl of a foreign asset and CIA case officer. These type of bars are where the case officers, analysts, and support staff go to drink when they get bored of pumping free drinks into foreign guests at the embassy or CIA base bar. It’s the kind of place they feel safe, however, it’s prime picking for any savvy enemy intelligence agent who has a network for local hookers and is prepared to buy information. More on that later.


Photo: Local Kiev drinking establishment. Author’s personal collection, all rights reserved.

It’s mostly Ukrainian and Russian spoken around Kiev tonight. During my spy bar hiatus later in my trip, I would find myself in an odd mix of the Queen’s English, American, French, and German speakers.

I had booked my ticket to Kiev in New York a few weeks back because one of our writers, Buck Clay, was having difficulty transferring video files to Nick Cahill, our media director. Buck was cruising the Ukrainian countryside reporting for SOFREP and trying to upload his video files from anywhere he could pirate a WiFi hotspot. It wasn’t working out very well.

“Screw it, I’ll meet you in Kiev for a hand-off. I’ve always wanted to go, anyway. How’s the 24th?” I asked.