- "Hail HYDRA."
- ―Vasily Karpov
Colonel Vasily Karpov was a HYDRA operative embedded inside the Russian Armed Forces who was given the responsibility for overseeing the Winter Soldier Program, successfully arranging the assassination of Howard Stark and the deployment of the newly created Winter Soldiers. Decades after leaving the organization, Karpov was found and tortured by Helmut Zemo for information, but Karpov still refused to betray HYDRA for Zemo, who killed him.
Handling Winter Soldier
Arriving in the main chamber, Karpov ordered his men to defrost the Winter Soldier from the Cryostasis Chamber. After the Winter Soldier was taken to the Memory Suppressing Machine to alter his memories thus to ensure that he has little or no memory regarding his previous assassination missions or his past life as a Howling Commando during World War II, Karpov activated Barnes using a set of conditioned trigger words.
After Barnes' mind was completely controlled, Karpov greeted him and informed him of his new mission, before dispatching him to Long Island, New York, to kill the Starks. Barnes successfully managed to intercept the automobile carrying the Starks and a case of five Super Soldier Serum duplicates before assassinating them. After Barnes returned to the HYDRA Siberian Facility with the recovered serums, Karpov complemented him on his good work.
Creation of Winter Soldiers
Succeeding in acquiring the Super Soldier Serum, Karpov oversaw the creation of the Winter Soldiers, an elite group of five HYDRA assassins infused with the serum. After the five additional assassins were infused with the serum, they were each given their own rooms to experience the side effects of the drug. While Josef shouted in pain in one of the rooms of the HYDRA Siberian Facility, Karpov took notes of the serum's effects.After some amount of time, Karpov concluded with his notes and decided to have the Winter Soldiers fight Bucky Barnes to determine if they were worthy of being accepted into the program. He unlocked Josef's door and found him meditating on the bed, and later gathered the four other candidates at one of the training rooms at the HYDRA Siberian Facility. Karpov also summoned the original Winter Soldier, who was instructed to train and fight with the new recruits to prepare them for their missions.
During one of the training sessions with the other Winter Soldiers, Karpov witnessed Josef overpowering the original Winter Soldier. As Barnes was subdued, Karpov looked at the assassin and congratulated him on his success. However, Josef, fueled with adrenaline, attacked a doctor who was checking on his vitals, and smashed his head onto the ground killing him. As a result, all of the Winter Soldiers lost control except for Barnes and started a riot, during which they rebelled against their HYDRA handlers.
A terrified Karpov held Barnes at gunpoint, using him to defend himself from the other Winter Soldiers, who intended on also killing Karpov. After Barnes and Karpov escaped from the training room and locked the other Soldiers up, more HYDRA guards eventually subdued the Winter Soldiers, who were eventually put under deep sleep in Cryostasis Chambers. Karpov left Russia and immigrated to the United States after abandoning HYDRA.
Questioned by Zemo
Twenty-five years later, Karpov hid in Cleveland, Ohio in the aftermath of the HYDRA Uprising, which resulted in Black Widow leaking encrypted S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA secrets to the Internet, including Karpov's affiliation with the Winter Soldier Program. One day, while Karpov was eating lunch, Helmut Zemo arrived at his house to gather information from him pertaining to the Winter Soldier Program.
Zemo claimed to have accidentally crashed his car onto the curb. Suspicious, Karpov headed towards the windows to observe the situation, unaware if Zemo was telling the truth or if he was trying to break into his house and kill him. Zemo then persuaded Karpov to come outside and observe the situation so they could settle the situation outside, but also insisted that he could call the cops if he preferred.
Knowing that the cops would likely arrest him at the moment of uncovering his identity, Karpov decided to settle the situation in private. As Zemo continued to communicate with him on his the front porch, Karpov considered retrieving his gun, still untrustworthy of Zemo's claims. He slowly opened the door before announcing that he would not involve the cops. As the door opened, however, Zemo punched him and subdued him before Karpov was rendered unconscious.Some time later, Karpov awoke, finding himself tied to a sink upside down. He soon looked as the intruder read his secret documents, including his own HYDRA file. As Zemo sarcastically congratulated him for keeping his looks while observing his old photo, Karpov asked who Zemo was. Instead, Zemo started to fill up the sink with water and demanded information about the Winter Soldier's assassination mission in Long Island, New York.
Shocked, Karpov inquired Zemo how he managed to locate him, to which Zemo responded that he managed to decrypt numerous classified S.H.I.E.L.D. files that pertained to the history of the Winter Soldier Program and its key leaders, including Karpov, which were leaked by Black Widow during the Battle at the Triskelion. Zemo then proceeded to ask Karpov a second time about Bucky Barnes' mission report, which prompted Karpov to tell him to go to hell.
For a moment, Zemo stopped the faucet and reminded the retired general that HYDRA deserved its place in the ash and even threatened to resort to worse methods to extract the mission report from him. However, Karpov refused to talk, so Zemo took the book with the trigger words to operate Barnes and abandoned him. Heavily restrained and unable to lift his head from the water, Karpov spoke the HYDRA oath before drowning in the overflowing sink.
- Marksman: Karpov was skilled in the use of wielding his pistol.
- Bilingualism: Karpov spoke his native Russian as well as English.
- Makarov PM: Karpov carried this handgun while stationed at the HYDRA Siberian Facility. He resorted to pulling the gun when he realized the Winter Soldiers went out of control and were about to kill everyone inside the training exercise, so he ordered the original Winter Soldier to take him to safety while aiming the gun at the rest of soldiers. Once HYDRA fell and Karpov moved to Cleveland, he took the handgun to his house for safety, but he was unable to retrieve it when Helmut Zemo attacked him in his house.
- Winter Soldier Book: Karpov owned a book which contained the information regarding the trigger words to activate the Winter Soldier. He used the book before the Winter Soldier's mission to assassinate Howard Stark. After Karpov moved to Cleveland, he kept the book hidden behind a wall, only for Helmut Zemo to steal it and to kill Karpov.
- Helmut Zemo - Killer
- In the comics, Vasily Karpov is a ruthless but efficient Soviet officer involved in a joint operation with Captain America and the Invaders during World War II, in which he helped foil a plot of Red Skull and Master Man and rescued Alexei Shostakov. He was also partly responsible for the creation of the Winter Soldier.
Behind the Scenes
- Vasily Karpov's hiding in Cleveland was inspired by the real history of John Demjanjuk, who hid in Cleveland to avoid his death penalty for his crimes during the Holocaust.