124.743/8–2349: Telegram

The Minister in Bulgaria ( Heath ) to the Secretary of State

top secret

705. I delayed answering Department’s 282, August 101 until I could broach question exit visas for Shipkovs to Assistant Foreign Minister Kamenov who saw me at 12:30 August 20 (penultimate paragraph Legtel 700, August 222).

I mentioned rumors death of Legation Bulgarian employee Secoulov3 and refusal Chief of Protocol Foreign Office to admit Legation request for investigation these rumors. Kamenov seemed shocked and said he would look into it immediately.

I then discussed in general way pending negotiations for mutual limited deblocking of funds, pointed out advantages to Bulgarian Government would be greater than to Legation and finally asked as a personal favor that exit visas for temporary trip Switzerland for medical treatment be given Shipkov and family. Kamenov inquired what guarantee could be given they would return Bulgaria to which I replied I could give no assurances but I was only asking for a temporary visa. Kamenov, while arguing that Bulgaria had legal right to all funds now blocked in States, did not contest statement that agreement would probably benefit Bulgaria more than US and indicated he would give consideration to request for Shipkovs.

Interview terminated 1:30 p. m. and 50 minutes later, Shipkov picked up by militia and his 32 hour interrogation began.

Shipkov’s statement transmitted my numbered telegram 702, August 234 only partially covers “confession” of utterly imaginary guilt and recitals of events which never occurred and which his interrogators forcibly suggested to him. According to his latter account, of [Page 345] which a stenographic record has been taken, he found himself confirming accusations against former members of American and British military missions, former and present members of this Legation including myself, of having formed espionage and sabotage rings. His inquisitors had evidently outlined in advance the statements and accusations which they wished him to make. When he got off on the wrong track he was summarily halted with blows and forced to continue talking until what with their remarks and questions he invented or confirmed the stories that they desired.

It appears that Courtney,5 who was an innocent shooting and walking companion of Shipkov on weekends, was more heavily accused than myself but much attention was paid also to getting him to make statements against Colonel Yatsevitch, also an occasional companion on walking tours.

In first 24 hours of his inquisition their only promise was that he would be given life imprisonment instead of death. Then in the last hours they suddenly brought up the proposition of his returning to spy on Legation. His own hypothesis and mine is that the militia had gotten in touch with Foreign Office and learned of my conversation with Kamenov and my warning remarks as to effect of publicity re Secoulov’s death. Presumably Foreign Office advised against his detention or execution at this time.

After 32 hours Shipkov was given a glass of water, told to return to his home, then to meet militia agents at 8:30 the following evening and warned, of course, not to betray fact of his detention and interrogation. Shipkov worked all day Monday August 22 before going to meeting, typed his account leaving it in his desk with thought that if he were again arrested and held that his statement which we would find would nullify any “confession” they extorted from him. Monday evening he showed up at appointed place but though he waited for 3 hours was not met. It is known that in the case of other employees who have been forced by threats to spy on Legation personnel militia frequently failed to show up for appointments with them.

This morning he managed, although other Bulgarian employees continually made excuses to enter his office apparently under militia instructions to observe his actions, to pass his statement to Second Secretary Courtney.

At 2 today I sent for him and he gave further details of his interrogation. We and he noted that one or two militia cars were stationed not far from Legation. He finally stated that unless we insisted on his leaving or expelled him he would stay in chancery. He argued, and I think justifiably, that his conversation with us although it did [Page 346] not take place until after other Bulgarian employees had left would certainly be known or surmised by militia and once again in their clutches, utterly broken as he now is, he would be unable to conceal he had told us of his experiences.

Shipkov’s wife and daughter at present in Varna and are not due back until September 4. He argues, and I am inclined agree, that there is a possibility that as a result of further interview with Kamenov Foreign Office might make militia agree to permit the departure of entire family or at least that of his wife and child on the understanding we would not give publicity to Secoulov’s death or inquisition of Shipkov. He is willing to surrender himself to almost certain death and certain torture if we could gain permission for his wife and child to leave Bulgaria.

I have not offered Shipkov asylum in chancery. He simply has not left premises after his day’s work was completed and with a record of three Bulgarian employees (Peev, Dimitroff and now Secoulov) judicially or otherwise murdered by the militia in past six months, I did not feel that I could order or bodily expel him from chancery. He is staying on third floor to which no Bulgarian and only few members of Legation have access. While militia undoubtedly know by surmise that he must be here the very few members of Legation who know of this will under no circumstances admit he is sheltered in chancery.

Even the case-hardened Bulgarian Government must appreciate seriousness of action against Shipkov following atrocious killings of three other Legation Bulgarian employees. They must know that under normal circumstances such persecution of Legation would have led to a break of relations which cannot be the desire of Bulgaria (read the Kremlin) at this juncture.

During my interview with Kamenov tomorrow I intend to press the issue of the Shipkov visas without, of course, giving evidence of any knowledge of what has occurred.

Will advise Department further following interview.6

  1. Supra.
  2. Not printed; it commented upon the current status of negotiations with the Bulgarian Foreign Ministry regarding the possible terms of an agreement allowing the use of blocked funds for the operations of the American Legation in Sofia and the Bulgarian Legation in Washington (874.5151/8–2249).
  3. Regarding the death of Ivan Secoulov, see telegram 642, August 1, from Sofia, p. 339.
  4. Not printed. On March 4, 1950, the Department of State issued to the press a statement reviewing Shipkov’s personal biography, his duties at the Legation in Sofia, the details of his detention and interrogation by Bulgarian police, his stay at the Legation, and the efforts of the Legation to secure permission for him to leave Bulgaria. The Department also made public Shipkov’s sworn affidavit describing in great detail the course of his interrogation. For the text of the statement and of the affidavit, see Department of State Bulletin, March 13, 1950, pp. 387–396.
  5. Raymond F. Courtney, Second Secretary in the Legation in Sofia.
  6. Telegram 305, August 25, to Sofia, not printed, informed Minister Heath that his action in the Shipkov case had the Department’s full support (124.743/8–2349).