Markus Wolf, the late East Germany's spymaster of legend, is reported to have fled to the Soviet Union, but his successor was arrested hours after the two Germanys became one.

For weeks, officials have been debating what to do with the spies from East Germany's hard-line Communist regime who routinely infiltrated West Germany during the Cold War era. Plans for an amnesty were rejected.When unification came on Wednesday, the spies became fair game for federal prosecutors eager to bring them to justice. East Germany had about 8,000 spies, but officials say fewer than 50 arrest warrants have been issued.

Wolf is by far the biggest fish among them.

An urbane espionage wizard who gained the grudging respect of his Western foes, Wolf left behind tales of intrigue before retiring in 1987.

As the struggling East German Communists sought to hang on to power last fall, Wolf claimed he wanted to help reform the government.

Pro-democracy figures mocked him, citing his role as a central figure in the Communists' well-maintained spy and secret police apparatus.

Since then, Wolf has apparently lived off and on near Moscow, writing his memoirs in the relatively safe haven there.

In Thursday's editions, the mass-circulation Bild newspaper of Hamburg quoted the new Germany's chief prosecutor, Alexander von Stahl, as saying Wolf was "probably in the Soviet Union" right now.