Memorandum of Conversation, by the Counselor of the Department of State (Bohlen)

Participants: The Soviet Ambassador, Mr. Alexander S. Panyushkin
Mr. Boris M. Krotov, First Secretary
Mr. Robert A. Lovett1
Mr. Charles E. Bohlen
Mr. Ernest A. Gross2

The Soviet Ambassador called at his request to leave with the Department a protest3 concerning the case of Mrs. Kosenkina and Mr. [Page 1031] Samarin and family in New York. The Ambassador said that these individuals had been kidnapped by a White Russian organization known as the Tolstoy Fund with at least the connivance of the American authorities, in particular the FBI, and that he was instructed by his Government to enter an energetic protest against this molestation of Soviet officials in the United States. He referred to newspaper stories and the statement of Mrs. Kosenkina in support of this contention.

Mr. Lovett replied that there were many contradictory stories appearing in the press concerning these two individuals and that we were looking into the matter, but that he could not accept the unfounded decisions of the Soviet Ambassador. He said that, if, as a result of a careful investigation of the true facts in the matter, it was found that any American citizen or others, private or official, had been guilty of improper or criminal actions in connection with these persons, the United States Government would take appropriate action. He repeated that, however, the facts were not yet clear and that the conclusions stated by the Soviet Ambassador could not be accepted; that preliminary investigation had made clear that no American authorities had been connected in the manner suggested by the Ambassador with these events.

The Soviet Ambassador said that he did not believe any assertions that the FBI was not working in conjunction with the Tolstoy fund. He said any such disavowal, in his opinion, was nonsense. He said that it was admitted in the press that Mr. Samarin had been in touch with the FBI and therefore it was obvious that the FBI had him in custody.

Mr. Lovett pointed out that the FBI statement merely reported that Mr. Samarin had called at the FBI office as any individual was entitled to do and had then left of his own free will and that we had been informed by the Bureau that they were not aware of the whereabouts of Mr. Samarin. He then read an account in the New York Times of the statement which Mr. Samarin had made to the paper in which he said he was refusing to return to the Soviet Union because of his conscience and unwillingness to serve the Soviet Government any longer.4

The Soviet Ambassador said he regarded any such disclaimer by the FBI as naive which should not be believed by any grown person; that the methods used in the case of these Soviet citizens were typical measures of provocation in matters of this kind. He asserted that the New York police had refused to cooperate with the Consul General in [Page 1032] New York and he said he demanded officially on instructions from his Government that Samarin and his family be put in contact with the Consul General and that they be turned over the the protection of the Consulate General.

Mr. Lovett repeated that the American Government was looking into the matter and would take appropriate action in the event that there had been any improper or criminal action on the part of anybody in connection with these persons; that, however, from available facts, it would appear that Samarin had taken the decision of his, own free will; and he read from the newspaper the statement of the Deputy Commissioner of Police in New York to the effect that the police were looking into every aspect of the case, after a 45–minute talk with the Soviet Consul General.

The Soviet Ambassador in closing the interview said he wanted to mention the fact that Mr. Samarin had been wounded in the head during the war and that he therefore could not be held fully responsible for what he said, particularly as he had been subjected to pressures and threats in order for him to do so. He said because of this Mr. Samarin was in a highly nervous condition, and after his experience in this case he might make statements which he did not fully believe. He reiterated his demand that the Consul General be placed in touch with the Samarins and that they be turned over to his protection.

Charles E. Bohlen
  1. The Under Secretary of State.
  2. The Legal Adviser in the Department of State.
  3. Infra.
  4. Mr. Samarin had appeared at the New York office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the morning of August 8. His statement is printed in the New York Times, August 9, 1948, p. 1. This is the statement reprinted in the Department of State Bulletin, August 29, 1948, footnote 1, p. 251, although there ascribed to August 10.