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Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg died by mistake during prison interrogation in 1947, according to a former Soviet KGB official.

Yevgeny Pietovarov, deputy to KGB chief Viktor Abakumov in the late 1940s, told the TV 3 satellite channel Monday night that former Soviet leader Josef Stalin wanted to use Wallenberg as a bargaining chip in international politics."Despite his cruelty, Stalin was a wise man and would not have acted so that Wallenberg went under," 77-year-old Pietovarov said in the interview quoted by Swedish news agency TT.

Wallenberg, credited with saving thousands of Hungarian Jews from Hitler's gas chambers, disappeared in the hands of Soviet troops who swarmed into Budapest at the end of World War II.

Pietovarov, who said he never met Wallenberg, gave no source for his information and did not elaborate on the circumstances of Wallenberg's death.

The Soviet Union said in 1957 that Wallenberg had died 10 years earlier of a heart attack in Moscow's Lubyanka prison.

Sweden has always disputed this account, citing evidence by a number of released prisoners who said they saw Wallenberg after 1947.