The Acting Secretary of State to the Chargé of the Soviet Union (Novikov)

The Acting Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Chargé d’Affaires ad interim of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and refers to the Embassy’s note dated May 17, 1945 requesting certain data concerning the departure of two Soviet merchant seamen, Pika and Lobanov, who left their vessels in a port of the United States and who later shipped out on other vessels.

The Embassy’s note indicates that the Embassy is of the opinion that the Department failed to furnish certain desired information regarding these cases when such information was available to the Department. The Embassy states in its note that the Department’s delay in furnishing the Embassy the desired data regarding these cases resulted in the seamen being deported instead of their being turned over to Soviet authorities as requested.

A review of the records regarding these cases shows that the Embassy’s original requests for information concerning Lobanov and Pika were made orally by an officer of the Embassy on January 9, 1945 and January 24, 1945. After the receipt of these requests the matter was taken up with the immigration authorities of the United States. The subsequent requests by the Embassy were made prior to the receipt in the Department of the reports requested from the immigration authorities. Consequently, negative statements were necessarily given to the Embassy on each occasion. After the reports were finally received from the immigration authorities the Embassy was informed by the Department’s note dated May 2, 1945 that both Pika and Lobanov had departed voluntarily in lieu of deportation. They were not deported from the United States and the Department desires to correct the apparent misunderstanding of the Embassy in this connection.

As the Embassy has, in expressing its interest in these cases, made charges of improper conduct on the part of the officers of the Department it is deemed necessary to discuss certain important aspects of these cases from the viewpoint of the conduct of officers of the Government of the Soviet Union in this country.

The official records of this Government show that Mr. Lobanov was forcibly removed from his place of temporary residence in this country by officials of the Soviet Union and that he was being taken to a vessel of the Soviet Union against his will at the time the automobile carrying him was intercepted by American police officers at Portland, Oregon. The records further indicate that Mr. Lobanov entered the United States in the status of a seaman and was employed ashore by the Soviet Purchasing Commission for a number of months, although a search of the files does not disclose that an official notification (on [Page 1147] Form PR–X) was submitted by the Embassy for Mr. Lobanov as required by the Espionage Act of 191747 and the Act of 1938,48 as amended, by the Acts of August 7, 193949 and April 29, 1942,50 requiring the registration of agents of foreign principals.

While the Government of the United States has not heretofore registered a diplomatic complaint regarding this flagrant example of the unauthorized exercise by officers of the Soviet Union of police powers on American soil, and while no request has thus far been made by this Government for the removal from the United States of the particular officers of the Soviet Union, their improper exercise of authority having been considered as possible personal over-zealousness, the attempt on the part of officers of the Soviet Union in this country to exercise the police powers of this Government, and to remove forcibly a person from territory of the United States without due process of law, cannot be sanctioned by this Government.

When an alien seaman signs off or leaves his vessel in a port of the United States and within a reasonable time thereafter ships out on another vessel, it is usually considered that he has complied with the requirements of the immigration laws of the United States and this Government usually takes no further interest in his whereabouts. There do not appear to be any circumstances in these cases which require the application of a different policy. In this respect the Embassy is referred to the Department’s memorandum note dated October 6, 194351 concerning the cases of Lenj and Poplovkov.

In view of the attempt of the officers of the Soviet Union to exercise extraterritorial authority in these cases, and the fact that the Embassy’s request was made after the failure of that attempt, this Government does not feel obliged to furnish any further information regarding these cases as requested by the Embassy.

  1. Approved June 15, 1917; 40 Stat. 217.
  2. Foreign Agents Registration Act, approved June 8, 1938; 52 Stat. 631.
  3. 53 Stat. (pt. 2) 1244.
  4. 56 Stat. 248.
  5. Not printed.