Memorandum of Conversation, by the Chief of the Division of Eastern European Affairs (Durbrow)

Mr. Kapustin, Counselor of the Soviet Embassy, called today and asked the Department’s assistance in connection with the case of Alexander Feodorvich Lebanov,* a Soviet merchant seaman, who, Mr. Kapustin stated, had deserted from the SS Ural in Portland on December 26, 1944.30 Mr. Kapustin stated he understood that Lebanov had been arrested in Seattle a few days later by United States immigration authorities, and he requested that the Department make arrangements with the immigration authorities to have Lebanov turned over to the Soviet consular officials on the West Coast hi order that they might make arrangements to return him to the Soviet Union. During the conversation Mr. Kapustin laid emphasis on the fact that he is a deserter.

I did not discuss the case further with Mr. Kapustin, but indicated that I would look into the matter without making any promises.

In view of the long-standing American policy of not requiring foreign seamen who have deserted in the United States to return to their native country or leave on one of their own flag vessels, which policy has been explained in full in writing to the Soviet Embassy in connection with case of Seaman Yegorov,31 it would not appear advisable to comply with the request of the Soviet Embassy to turn Lebanov [Page 1140] over to Soviet officials in this country. There have been many other instances of Soviet merchant seamen deserters, and the Soviet Embassy has been informed, whenever inquiry has been made, of the United States policy in this regard. In all these cases, in compliance with our long-standing policy, the United States immigration authorities have permitted these deserting seamen to depart from the United States on any foreign vessel on which they can obtain employment or passage, since the only offense deserting seamen are considered to have committed against United States law is that of being illegally in the country.

Before replying to the Soviet Embassy, it would be appreciated if VD32 would obtain all pertinent details from the immigration service regarding the case of Lebanov.

  1. or Labanov. [Footnote in the original.]
  2. His correct name was Alexander Fedorovich Lobanov. He was a seaman, 1st Class, aboard the SS Story Bolshevik, which had reached Portland, Oregon, on May 7, 1943. He remained there in the employ of the Government Purchasing Commission of the Soviet Union in the U.S.A. until his desertion on December 27, 1944, when he was kidnapped by Soviet officials. En route to another ship, SS Ural, he was rescued by American police officers and held for immigration hearings on January 4, 1945, at Seattle.
  3. Alexander Simenovich Yegorov (Egorov) had deserted his ship on April 22, 1942, at San Francisco, had been apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities on July 16, had been allowed to depart from San Francisco as a seaman aboard a neutral vessel on July 28, and had been forcibly taken aboard a Soviet vessel at San Francisco on October 7, 1943. Immigration authorities there were assured by the Soviet Consulate General that the vessel would not depart until Yegorov’s case had been cleared with the Department of State, but the ship left with him on October 10 contrary to this assurance.
  4. Visa Division.