File No. 861.00/2235

The Consul at Moscow ( Poole) to the Secretary of State


668. Following threat by the Ambassador that otherwise Germany would occupy central Russia, Soviet ordered the return of the Black Sea Fleet from Novorossiisk to Sevastopol. Only part of the fleet has obeyed order. Remainder including dreadnought named Free Russia, 4 destroyers, 2 large, 2 small torpedo boats blown up by the crews. Two large torpedo boats fled to Tuapse. According to the best obtainable information commander in chief vessels which returned to Sevastopol included dreadnought Volya, 4 destroyers and 2 small torpedo boats.

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German demand for return of vessels was based on Article 5 of Brest Litovsk treaty and [on] express guarantee that vessels returned will not be used by Germany or her allies during the war and will be returned to Russia after conclusion of general peace, as well as further guarantee that in the event fleets returned German troops will not cross line of demarcation approximately coinciding with disposition of troops at beginning of the peace negotiation with the Ukraine.

Chicherin asks that the special attention of the American Government be invited to the action of the crews in destroying part of the vessels. He says this action represents the true sentiment of the Soviets, the order for the return of the fleet having been given only under duress.

The incident is illuminating, signifying whatever the voluntary disposition of the Soviets may be with respect to Germany and the Allies respectively, they are not free agents and cannot, even if they wish, do anything which Germany may consider detrimental to her interests.