124.743/9–849: Telegram

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

top secret

764. ReLegtel 754, September 7.1 I opened my talk with Kamenov today with resume of police persecution of Legation’s Bulgarian employees [Page 350] which, with death of Secoulov, had culminated into very grave situation. I remarked on necessity of prompt amicable solution to restore some degree of comity to Bulgarian-American relations. I was about to outline disadvantages to Bulgaria of publicity on treatment of these employees and concern of government, when he interrupted by saying he had taken up case of Shipkov personally with Christosov, new Interior Minister.2 Christosov had replied he had nothing in principle against granting the request. Such visas had been granted before, and it was only necessary for Shipkov to make application and Christosov thought it quite possible that exit permits would be forthcoming.

I said that in view of what had happened to other employees this Legation, could he give me any assurances with respect to Shipkov’s safety. He replied that while he could not now give definite assurances, since there might be charges pending against him, he would inquire and let me know within few days whether in fact there were any charges pending against Shipkov. As regards my fears of having him go to militia to make application for passport, he thought it was unnecessary for Shipkov to make personal appearance—it was sufficient to write a request and send photographs. I thanked him for his attitude and said I thought favorable action on my personal request, which had support of my government, would contribute toward Bulgarian-American relations.

He terminated interview by asking what action US was going to take on human rights clause of treaty, now that his government had declined to take part in arbitral commission we had proposed. I said I was not informed just what action was contemplated, but was certain matter would have to be considered in next General Assembly of UN.3

I will not be sure that Shipkov will in fact receive exit visas until Kamenov advises me whether there are charges which may be presented against him. It is, of course, possible that even if Kamenov does informally promise Shipkov’s safety, thwarted police may at last moment proceed to arrest latter, or even attack him as they did his brother, but that is a risk he will have to run.

As regards questions raised by Deptel 318, September 5,4 I do not regard Shipkov incident as isolated police initiative. Foreign Office [Page 351] must know in general and approve of campaign to force Bulgarian employees of diplomatic missions to act as spies or, in case of refusal, to force them to resign or arrest them. In this case, however, I believe Foreign Office was not consulted in advance by militia. What happened was that militia went too far and fast and bungled case. They thought they had so broken Shipkov by torture and “interrogation” that he would be a willing spy. They did not foresee his regaining enough courage to inform us of plot.

Neither do I believe his arrest was an incident in series calculated to lead to diplomatic rupture. I cannot believe that Moscow wants US to sever relations with Bulgaria at this precise time. Neither is it quite correct to say that action against Shipkov was attempt to discover limits of pressure we will countenance before invoking possibility of breaking relations. Police will go just as far in their campaign of persecution and restriction of Legation as they can without precipitating such an event. Police and Foreign Office have been encouraged in their persecution this mission by fact that we have so far not resorted to effective publicity, protest or retaliation. As regards suggested solution that Bulgarians promise not to persecute Shipkov further, such assurances would only have temporary, if any, validity. Kolarov personally promised former British Minister that Shipkov’s brother could continue employment in British Legation without molestation, all of which did not prevent his being beaten to a pulp by disguised militiamen and his subsequent imprisonment in a concentration camp without trial a few months after.

Department will note that Kamenov did not raise question of whereabouts Shipkov who is remaining in Chancery. Am writing Kamenov that Shipkov had previously made application for passport and exit permit which is on file in militia.

  1. Not printed.
  2. Rusi Gospodinov Khristosov, General of the People’s Militia and Assistant Minister of Interior and member of the Central Committee of the Bulgarian Communist Party was named Minister of Interior on August 6 in succession to Anton Yugov who had earlier been named Deputy Prime Minister (on July 20).
  3. For documentation on the efforts of the United States to assure fulfillment of the human rights articles of the treaties of peace with Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania, see pp. 223 ff.
  4. Ante, p. 347.