Approach[edit | edit source]
In early September 1945 Konstantin Volkov, Vice Consul for the Soviet Union in Istanbul, Turkey, turned up at the British Consulate General and told an astonished British Official that he wanted to defect. He added that he was the deputy head of the NKVD in Turkey.
He asked for $27,000 and a promise of political asylum, stating that if his demands were met he was willing to expose 314 Soviet agents in Turkey and 250 Soviet agents in Britain. More importantly, he said there were two British diplomats in the Foreign Office and another man (Kim Philby) in a very high ranking position in the Counter Intelligence Section of the British Secret Intelligence Service.
He demanded an answer within three weeks, and insisted that Istanbul not send his information by cable because the Soviets were reading British Cipher System traffic. The news was sent to Sir Stewart Menzies, head of the SIS (commonly known to the media and the public as MI-6) by a diplomatic courier. In London, the matter was given to the head of the Russian Section, Kim Philby, who took the necessary steps and flew out to Istanbul.
Arrest and Execution[edit | edit source]
Meanwhile, Volkov returned to the Soviet Consulate, from whence he quickly disappeared. The last seen of him was a heavily bandaged figure being hustled aboard a Soviet transport plane bound for Moscow.
Aftermath[edit | edit source]
Kim Philby, who was one of the Soviet moles whom Volkov's defection would have exposed, arrived 21 days late. The Consulate officials who had met with Volkov were enraged by Philby's delayed arrival, believing his actions criminally incompetent.
Years later, after his own defection to the Soviet Union, Philby admitted to having informed his NKVD contact about Volkov prior to his own departure for Istanbul. He contemptuously described Volkov as, "a nasty piece of work," and referred to the incident as the greatest obstacle he ever faced.
Had Volkov talked, he would have been a walking encyclopedia for British and American Intelligence about the NKVD, GRU, the armed forces and even the Kremlin. His testimony could have struck a devastating blow to every facet of Joseph Stalin's regime and power structure.