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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Defends Spy Philby

Faced with a scathing attack on Kim Philby, a key Soviet double agent in the British intelligence service, the Russian intelligence apparatus has cried foul and came to the defense of the legendary spy Wednesday.


Yevgeny Primakov, head of the Foreign Intelligence Service, said at a news conference that Philby, who defected to Moscow in 1963, was motivated by ideology only when he turned in British secret service agents to the communist authorities for subsequent execution or prison terms.


"He did not work out of financial considerations," Primakov said, commenting on an article in the newspaper Izvestia which portrayed Philby as an adventurer equally fond of communism and fascism.


"I respect Kim Philby and I value him highly," Primakov said.


Soviet agents recruited Philby in the 1930s and he supplied Moscow with sensitive information.


Two other Soviet agents, Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean, who were friends of the double agent, defected to Moscow before Philby. Anthony Blunt, curator of Queen Elizabeth II's art collection, was stripped of his knighthood but granted immunity from prosecution after he was revealed as the fourth spy in 1979.


The article in Wednesday's Izvestia was written by Jean Vronskaya, a Soviet ?migr? who built her journalistic career in Britain by interviewing prominent immigrants from the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Vronskaya is currently writing a book about Russian and Soviet espionage.


But spokesmen for the Russian service dismissed Vronskaya as unauthoritative and the article in Izvestia as "outrageous" and biased.


"She is no expert in the field of writing about intelligence services," said Oleg Tsaryov, a retired intelligence officer and co-author of a biography of Philby, "Deadly Illusions," published last year in the United States.Tsaryov and the service's press spokesman, Yury Kobaladze, who said they knew the master spy personally, disputed some of the assertions in the article and sought to justify specific details of Philby's cooperation with the Soviet intelligence, such as payment of bonuses to him.


"Any intelligence officer anywhere in the world works in a system of double standards," Tsaryov said. "He is a good guy for his employers and a bad guy for those against whom he works."


Tsaryov, who said he took instruction from Philby in the 1970s, confirmed that Philby and his family received money for personal spending several times from the Soviet authorities, but he said Philby never asked for it.


"We helped him pay off debts he incurred while paying for treatment of his second wife who was seriously ill," he said of one occasion. "But it is normal for all services in the world to take care their agents in need."


Vronskaya's allusion that Philby might have been a homosexual -- transparent in the headline "They Loved Each Other, Not the Soviet Union," as well as in the description of Philby's peer group as homosexuals -- prompted Kobaladze to make a remark more typical of a Western official than a Russian intelligence officer.


"He was not a homosexual. But even if he had been -- so what," Kobaladze said. "Such statements would not get published in Britain, sexual minorities would protest there."


The article said some survivors of Philby's betrayals were planning to sue Philby's widow, Rufina, for the money she raised by auctioning off personal belongings of her husband who died in Moscow in 1988.


Kobaladze said Philby's last wife, Rufina, was exasperated by the publication, but he said the service would not protest to the newspaper because officials did not consider it worthwhile to argue with Vronskaya.