Soviet defectors

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Soviet defectors

Leon Helfland (KV 2/2681)

KV 2/2681 (covering 1929-1955) is one of two in this release covering early Soviet defectors. Helfland was a Soviet diplomat who defected to the West in 1940, and provided information about OGPU operations in Rome and elsewhere. The Security Service had been collecting information about Helfland prior to his defection, as under the cover of work as a counsellor in various Soviet embassies he "had the reputation of being a GPU stalwart, and was said not only to have been concerned in the kidnapping of General Kutepoff…but also to have been responsible in the early days of the revolution for a number of particularly brutal murders." (serial 10a, 2 June 1937).

When recalled to Moscow from Rome in the summer of 1940, Helfland instead made his way to the United States, where he went to ground under a false identity. It was only in April 1941 that a British official, W H Gallienne, made contact with Helfland to obtain information about the security of British ciphers (report at serial 17a, and Commander Denniston's views of Helfland's information at serial 22a). Further questions to ask Helfland were devised, and the report of his answers given in 1947 to a Secret Intelligence Service officer regarding the leaks from the Rome Embassy are at serial 40ab.

The file generally concerns itself with efforts to establish the accuracy of Helfland's information, and to follow up such leads as he gave. Minute 36 of 23 October 1946 records Kim Philby's extensive knowledge of and involvement in the case.

Go to Discovery to view images of KV 2/2681

Grigoriy Besedovskiy (KV 2/2670-2671)

This release includes the file of a second defector, Grigoriy Besedovskiy, who was the Soviet counsellor at the embassy in Paris when he defected in 1929 after refusing orders to return to Moscow. KV 2/2670 (1926-1929) contains much press speculation about Besedovskiy's defection, and reveals that the Secret Intelligence Service and the Security Service considered and rejected using him as an agent (serial 32a of October 1929: "we…agree [with MI6] that in all probability as an agent he would be undesirable." By May 1930 MI6 was reporting (KV 2/2671, 1930-1955) that Besedovskiy was the "head of the Russian Emigrés organisation known as 'Nichtzürück Kehren' (The name might be translated loosely as "No to sudden returns"). This organisation was made by Soviet citizens who refused to return to Russia when ordered to do so."

Besedovskiy remained in France during the war and was reported to have spent his time working for the resistance. For this he was pardoned by the Soviets, and from that time the Service suspected that his propaganda efforts, which had previously been devoted to anti-Stalinist material, might now be promoting Soviet inspired propaganda.