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Portrait taken from a 1990 Soviet stamp
|Birth name||Harold Adrian Russell Philby|
|Born||1 January 1912|
Ambala, Punjab, British India
|Died||11 May 1988 (aged 76)|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Ryabinova Ulitsa, Moscow
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
Portrait taken from a 1990 Soviet stamp
|Birth name||Harold Adrian Russell Philby|
|Born||1 January 1912|
Ambala, Punjab, British India
|Died||11 May 1988 (aged 76)|
Moscow, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Ryabinova Ulitsa, Moscow
|Alma mater||Trinity College, Cambridge|
Harold Adrian Russell "Kim" Philby (1 January 1912 – 11 May 1988) was a high-ranking member of British intelligence who worked as a double agent before defecting to the Soviet Union in 1963. He served as both an NKVD and KGB operative.
In 1963, Philby was revealed to be a member of the spy ring now known as the Cambridge Five, the other members of which were Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, Anthony Blunt and, possibly, John Cairncross. Of the five, Philby is believed to have been most successful in providing secret information to the Soviet Union. His activities were moderated only by Joseph Stalin's fears that he was secretly on Britain's side. Philby was an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from 1946 to 1965.
Philby was born at Ambala in the Punjab while it was a province of British India. His father, St John Philby, a well-known author, orientalist and convert to Islam, was a member of the Indian Civil Service and later a civil servant in Mesopotamia and advisor to King Ibn Sa'ud of Saudi Arabia.
Nicknamed "Kim" after the boy in Rudyard Kipling's novel Kim, Philby attended Aldro preparatory school. Following in the footsteps of his father, he continued to Westminster School, which he left in 1928 at the age of 16. He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he read History and Economics. At Cambridge he was treasurer of the Cambridge University Socialist Society[dubious ] and canvassed for the Labour candidate for Cambridge in the 1931 election. He graduated in 1933 with a 2:1 degree in Economics.
Upon Philby's graduation, Maurice Dobb, a fellow of King's College, Cambridge and tutor in Economics, introduced him to the World Federation for the Relief of the Victims of German Fascism in Paris. The World Federation was one of innumerable fronts operated by the German communist Willi Münzenberg, a member of the Reichstag who had fled to France in 1933. Dobb, a communist sympathiser, also placed Philby in contact with the Comintern underground in Vienna, Austria.
In Vienna, working to aid refugees from Nazi Germany, Philby met and fell in love with Litzi Friedmann (born Alice Kohlmann), a young Austrian communist of Hungarian Jewish origins. Philby admired the strength of her political convictions and later recalled that at their first meeting: "[a] frank and direct person, Litzi came out and asked me how much money I had. I replied £100, which I hoped would last me about a year in Vienna. She made some calculations and announced, 'That will leave you an excess of £25. You can give that to the International Organisation for Aid for Revolutionaries. We need it desperately.' I liked her determination." He acted as a courier to Vienna and Prague, paying for the train tickets out of his remaining £75 and using his British passport to evade suspicion. He also delivered clothes and money to refugees from the Nazis.
With threats of an armed uprising against the Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss (he was assassinated by Nazis the following year) and the deaths of several hundred in the February Uprising, Philby's British passport became still more valuable. He and Litzi Friedmann married in February 1933, enabling her to escape to the United Kingdom with him two months later. It is possible that it was a Viennese-born friend of Friedmann's in London, Edith Tudor Hart – herself, at this time, a Soviet agent – who first approached Philby about the possibility of working for Soviet intelligence.
According to Genrikh Borovik, who worked from Soviet archives, Tudor Hart recommended Litzi and Philby in 1934. Peter Wright, former senior MI5 officer, said in his 1987 book, Spycatcher that Litzi Friedmann was "almost certainly the person who recruited him to the Soviet cause." Yuri Modin, one of the KGB controllers of the Cambridge Five, agreed; "Contrary to received opinion, it was neither Guy Burgess nor one of our own agents who lured Philby into the toils of the Soviet espionage apparatus. It was Litzi."
Philby's first Soviet controller was the Hungarian Arnold Deutsch (code-name Otto), who came to London from Vienna to study at London University. He was soon replaced by Theodore Maly (code-name Man), who was also Hungarian. Philby also dealt with Anatoly Gorsky (code-name Kap) the OGPU rezident in London and his predecessor, a German known as Reif (code-name Mar). All were shot in Moscow between 1936 and 1938 on trumped-up charges of being either German or Polish spies during the era of Stalin's Great Purge. Philby's first task for Otto was to make a list of his Cambridge contemporaries who might respond to discreet contact. He listed seven, including Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess.
In London, Philby enrolled at the School of Slavonic Languages to learn Russian, helped by his father, a friend of the director. The school trained people for a career in diplomacy or the intelligence services. Philby's Russian was never good and he soon took a job at a monthly magazine, the World Review of Reviews, for which he wrote articles and letters (sometimes under pseudonyms) and occasionally served as acting editor.
At this point, Philby and Litzi separated. They remained friends and divorced only in 1946. When the Germans threatened to overrun Paris in 1940, where she was then living, he arranged her escape to Britain. In 1936 he joined a trade magazine, the Anglo-Russian Trade Gazette, as editor. The paper was failing and its owner changed its role to covering Anglo-German trade. Philby engaged in a concerted effort to make contact with Germans such as Joachim von Ribbentrop, at that time the German ambassador in London. He joined the Anglo-German Fellowship, which was supported both by the British and German governments, and made many trips to Berlin.
In February 1937, Philby travelled to Seville, Spain. At the time, Spain was embroiled in a bloody civil war, triggered by the rebellion of Nationalist forces under General Francisco Franco against the socialist Republican government of President Manuel Azaña. Philby worked at first as a freelance journalist; from May 1937, he served as a correspondent for The Times, reporting from the side of the pro-Franco forces. He was also working for both Soviet and British intelligence, posting letters in a crude code to a fictitious girlfriend, Mlle Dupont in Paris, for the Russians. He used a simpler system for MI6 delivering post at Hendaye, France, for the British Embassy in Paris. When visiting Paris after the war, he was shocked to discover that the address that he used for Mlle Dupont was that of the Soviet Embassy. His controller in Paris, the Latvian Ozolin-Haskins (code name Pierre), was shot in Moscow in 1937 during Stalin's purge. His successor, Boris Bazarov, suffered the same fate two years later during the purges.
Both services were interested in the combat performance of the new Messerschmitt Bf109s and Panzer I and IIs deployed with Nationalist forces in Spain. Philby told the British, after a direct question to Franco, that German troops would never be permitted to cross Spain to attack Gibraltar.
His Soviet controller at the time, Theodore Maly, reported in April 1937 to the NKVD that he had personally briefed Philby on the need "to discover the system of guarding Franco and his entourage." So as to assist in Franco's assassination, Philby was instructed to report on vulnerable points in Franco's security and recommend ways to gain access to him and his staff. However, such an act was never a real possibility; upon debriefing Philby in London on 24 May 1937, Maly wrote to the NKVD, "Though devoted and ready to sacrifice himself, [Philby] does not possess the physical courage and other qualities necessary for this [assassination] attempt."
In December 1937, during the Battle of Teruel, a Republican shell hit just in front of the car in which Philby was travelling with the correspondents Edward J. Neil of the Associated Press, Bradish Johnson of Newsweek, and Ernest Sheepshanks of Reuters. Johnson was killed outright, and Neil and Sheepshanks soon died of their injuries. Philby suffered only a minor head wound.
As a result of this accident, Philby, who was well-liked by the Nationalist forces whose victories he trumpeted, was awarded the Red Cross of Military Merit by Franco on 2 March 1938. Philby found that the award proved helpful in obtaining access to fascist circles:
"Before then," he later wrote, "there had been a lot of criticism of British journalists from Franco officers who seemed to think that the British in general must be a lot of Communists because so many were fighting with the International Brigades. After I had been wounded and decorated by Franco himself, I became known as 'the English-decorated-by-Franco' and all sorts of doors opened to me."
In 1938, Walter Krivitsky (born Samuel Ginsberg), a former GRU officer in Paris who had defected to France the previous year, travelled to the United States and published an account of his time in "Stalin's secret service." He testified before the Dies Committee (later to become the House Un-American Activities Committee) regarding Soviet espionage within the United States. In 1940 he was interviewed by MI5 officers in London. Krivitsky claimed that two Soviet intelligence agents had penetrated the British Foreign Office and that a third Soviet intelligence agent had worked as a journalist for a British newspaper during the civil war in Spain. Krivitsky was shot in a Washington hotel room the following year.
Alexander Orlov (born Leiba Feldbin; code-name Swede), Philby's controller in Madrid, who had once met him in Perpignan, France, with the bulge of an automatic rifle clearly showing through his raincoat, also defected. To protect his family, still living in the USSR, he said nothing about Philby, an agreement Stalin respected. On a short trip back from Spain, Philby tried to recruit Flora Solomon as a Soviet agent; she was the daughter of a Russian banker and gold dealer, a relative of the Rothschilds, and wife of a London stockbroker. At the same time, Burgess was trying to get her into MI6. But the rezident in France, probably Pierre at this time, suggested to Moscow that he suspected Philby's motives. Solomon introduced Philby to his second wife, Aileen Furse, but went to work for the British retailer Marks & Spencer.
In July 1939, Philby returned to the Times office in London. The Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, with its secret protocol that Germany and the Soviet Union would divide Poland, shocked Philby. He often asked, "Why was this necessary?". When Britain declared war on Germany in September 1939, contact with his Soviet controllers was lost and Philby failed to attend meetings. During the Phoney War from September 1939 until the Dunkirk evacuation, Philby worked as the Times correspondent with the British Expeditionary Force headquarters. After being evacuated from Boulogne on 21 May, he returned to France in mid-June (now representing the Daily Telegraph in addition to The Times). He briefly reported from Cherbourg and Brest, sailing for Plymouth less than twenty-four hours before the French surrender.
Hester Marsden-Smedley, a correspondent with the Sunday Express who shared the train ride from Plymouth to London, then introduced him to Marjorie Maxse, who offered him a role in the War Office. On his first meeting in her office, Philby was surprised to see his old friend from Cambridge, Burgess, who was already working there. His time there, however, was short-lived; the under-funded section was absorbed by the new Special Operations Executive (SOE) in July 1940. Burgess was fired for "irreverence", and Philby was appointed as an instructor in the art of clandestine propaganda at the SOE's training establishment in Beaulieu, Hampshire.
Philby's role as an instructor of sabotage agents again brought him to the attention of the OGPU. The new London rezident, Ivan Chichayev (code-name Vadim), re-established contact and asked for a list of names of British agents being trained to enter the USSR. Philby replied that none had been sent and that none were undergoing training. This statement was underlined twice in red and marked with two question marks by disbelieving staff at Moscow Central in the Lubyanka, according to Genrikh Borovik, who saw the telegrams much later in the KGB archives.
Section IX was often known as Section D (SIS Sections used Roman numerals). Philby was originally a Section D officer and is so noted in a letter of 24 September 1940 written by Lt. Col. Valentine Vivian, the head of Section V at that time. Under Section IX was the Statistical Research Centre War Office (a cover name), mobilised on September 1939 on the outbreak of war at War Station No X Bletchley Park, charged with breaking the German Enigma codes. Philby provided Stalin with advance warning of Operation Barbarossa and of the Japanese intention to strike south at Singapore instead of attacking the USSR as Hitler had urged. The first was ignored as a provocation, but the second, when confirmed by the Russo-German journalist and spy in Tokyo, Richard Sorge, contributed to Stalin's decision to transport troops from the Far East in time for Georgy Zhukov to use them in the counteroffensive around Moscow.
By September 1941, Philby was working for Section V of MI6, responsible for offensive counter-intelligence. On the strength of his knowledge and experience of Franco's Spain, he was put in charge of the subsection which dealt with Spain and Portugal. This entailed responsibility for a network of undercover operatives in Madrid, Lisbon, Gibraltar and Tangier. At this time, the German Abwehr was active in Spain, particularly around the British naval base of Gibraltar, which its agents hoped to watch with cameras and radar to track Allied supply ships in the Western Mediterranean. Thanks to British counter-intelligence efforts, of which Philby's Iberian subsection formed a significant part.
During 1942–43 Philby's responsibilities were expanded to include North Africa and Italy, and he was made the deputy head of Section V under Major Felix Cowgill, an army officer seconded to SIS. Cowgill was the SIS representative on the XX Committee run by John Masterman, which dealt with double agents working for the Abwehr but controlled by the British. In late 1944, Philby was chosen to replace Cowgill as head of Section. Charles Arnold-Baker, an officer of German birth (born Wolfgang von Blumenthal) working for Richard Gatty in Belgium and later transferred to the Norwegian/Swedish border, voiced suspicions of Philby but was ignored.
While with Section V, Philby met James Jesus Angleton, a young American counter-intelligence officer working in liaison with SIS in London. Angleton, later chief of the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) Counterintelligence Staff, became suspicious of Philby when he failed to pass on information relating to a British agent executed by the Gestapo in Germany. It later emerged that the agent – known as Schmidt – had also worked as an informant for the Rote Kapelle organisation, which sent information to both London and Moscow. Nevertheless, Angleton's suspicions went unheard.
In late summer 1943, the SIS provided the GRU with an official report of the activities of German agents in Bulgaria and Romania, soon to be invaded by the Red Army. The NKVD complained to Cecil Barclay, SIS representative in Moscow, that much had been withheld. Barclay reported the complaint to London. Philby claimed to have overheard discussion of this by chance and sent a report to his controller. This turned out to be identical with Barclay's dispatch, convincing the NKVD that Philby had seen the full Barclay report. A similar lapse occurred with a report from the Japanese Embassy in Moscow to Tokyo. The NKVD received the same report from Richard Sorge but with a most significant extra paragraph that Hitler might seek peace with the Soviet Union. These lapses by Philby aroused intense suspicion in Moscow.
Elena Modrzhinskaya at GUGB headquarters in Moscow was the person who assessed all material from the Cambridge Five. She noted that they produced an extraordinary wealth of information on German war plans but next to nothing on the repeated question of British penetration of Soviet intelligence in either London or Moscow. Philby had repeated his claim that there were no such agents. She asked, "Could the SIS really be such fools they failed to notice suitcase-loads of papers leaving the office? Could they have overlooked Philby's communist wife?" Modrzhinskaya concluded that all were double agents, working essentially for the British.
A more serious incident occurred in August 1945, when Konstantin Volkov, an NKVD agent and vice-consul in Istanbul, requested political asylum in Britain for himself and his wife. For a large sum of money, Volkov offered the names of three Soviet agents inside Britain, two of whom worked in the Foreign Office and a third who worked in counter-espionage in London. Philby was given the task of dealing with Volkov. He warned his Soviet controller and went to Istanbul – slowly. By the time he arrived in Turkey, three weeks later, Volkov had been removed to Moscow, in bandages.
Philby's role might have compromised his position. However, Volkov's defection had been discussed with the British Embassy in Ankara on telephones tapped by Soviet intelligence. Volkov had insisted that all written communications about him take place by diplomatic bag rather than by telegraph, causing a delay in reaction that might plausibly have given the Soviets time to uncover his plans. Philby was thus able to evade blame and detection. A month later Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk in Ottawa, took political asylum in Canada and gave the Royal Canadian Mounted Police many agent names; Philby could do nothing about this.
In February 1947, Philby was appointed head of British intelligence for Turkey, and posted to Istanbul with his second wife, Aileen, and their family. His public position was that of First Secretary at the British Consulate; in reality, his intelligence work required overseeing British agents and working with the Turkish security services.
Philby planned to infiltrate five or six groups of émigrés into Soviet Armenia or Soviet Georgia. But efforts among the expatriate community in Paris produced just two recruits. Turkish intelligence took them to a border crossing into Georgia but soon afterwards shots were heard. Another effort was made using a Turkish gulet for a seaborne landing, but it never left port. He was implicated in a similar campaign in Albania. Colonel David Smiley, an aristocratic Guards officer who had helped Enver Hoxha and his Communist guerillas to liberate Albania, now prepared to liberate it from Hoxha. He trained Albanian commandos – some of whom were former Nazi collaborators – in Libya or Malta. From 1947, they infiltrated the southern mountains to build support for former King Zog.
The first three missions, overland from Greece, were trouble-free. Larger numbers were landed by sea and air under Operation Valuable, which continued until 1951, increasingly under the influence of the newly formed CIA. Stewart Menzies, head of SIS, disliked the idea, which was promoted by former SOE men now in SIS. Most infiltrators were caught by the Sigurimi, the Albanian Security Service. Clearly there had been leaks and Philby was later suspected as one of the leakers. His own comment was "I do not say that people were happy under the regime but the CIA underestimated the degree of control that the Authorities had over the country."
Aileen Philby had suffered since childhood from psychological problems which caused her to inflict injuries upon herself. In 1948, troubled by the heavy drinking and frequent depressions that had become a feature of her husband's life in Istanbul, she experienced a breakdown of this nature, staging an accident and injecting herself with urine and insulin to cause skin disfigurations. She was sent to a clinic in Switzerland to recover. Upon her return to Istanbul in late 1948, she was badly burned in an incident with a charcoal stove and returned to Switzerland. Shortly afterward, Philby was moved to the job as chief SIS representative in Washington, D.C., with his family.
In September 1949, the Philbys arrived in the United States. Officially, his post was that of First Secretary to the British Embassy; in reality, he served as chief British intelligence representative in Washington. His office oversaw a large amount of urgent and top-secret communications between the United States and London. Philby was also responsible for liaising with the CIA and promoting "more aggressive Anglo-American intelligence operations." A leading figure within the CIA was Philby's wary former colleague, James Jesus Angleton, with whom he once again found himself working closely. Angleton remained suspicious of Philby, but lunched with him every week in Washington. Teddy Kollek, an Austrian Jew, former agent of Mossad and mayor of Jerusalem, recognised him from their prewar Vienna days, saw them together and assumed that Angleton had "turned" Philby into a triple agent.
However, a more serious threat to Philby's position had come to light. During the summer of 1945, a Soviet cipher clerk had reused a one time pad to transmit intelligence traffic. This mistake made it possible to break the normally impregnable code. Contained in the traffic (intercepted and decrypted as part of the Venona project) was information that documents had been sent to Moscow from the British Embassy in Washington. The intercepted messages revealed that the British Embassy source (identified as "Homer") travelled to New York City to meet his Soviet contact twice a week. Philby had been briefed on the situation shortly before reaching Washington in 1949; it was clear to Philby that the agent was Maclean, who worked in the British Embassy at the time and whose wife, Melinda, lived in New York. Philby had to help discover the identity of "Homer", but also wished to protect Maclean.
In January 1950, on evidence provided by the Venona intercepts, Soviet atomic spy Klaus Fuchs was arrested. His arrest led to others: Harry Gold, a courier with whom Fuchs had worked, David Greenglass, and Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The investigation into the British Embassy leak was still ongoing, and the stress of it was exacerbated by the arrival in Washington, in October 1950, of Burgess – Philby's unstable and dangerously alcoholic, fellow Soviet spy.
Burgess, who had been given a post as Second Secretary at the British Embassy, took up residence in the Philby family home and rapidly set about causing offence to all and sundry. Aileen Philby resented him and disliked his presence; Americans were offended by his "natural superciliousness" and "utter contempt for the whole pyramid of values, attitudes, and courtesies of the American way of life." J. Edgar Hoover complained that Burgess used British Embassy automobiles to avoid arrest when he cruised Washington in pursuit of homosexual encounters. His dissolution had a troubling effect on Philby; the morning after a particularly disastrous and drunken party, a guest returning to collect his car heard voices upstairs and found "Kim and Guy in the bedroom drinking champagne. They had already been down to the Embassy but being unable to work had come back."
Burgess' presence was problematic for Philby, yet it was potentially dangerous for Philby to leave him unsupervised. The situation in Washington was tense. From April 1950, Maclean had been the prime suspect in the investigation into the Embassy leak. Philby had undertaken to devise an escape plan which would warn Maclean, currently in England, of the intense suspicion he was under and arrange for him to flee. Burgess had to get to London to warn Maclean, who was under surveillance. In early May 1951, Burgess got three speeding tickets in a single day – then pleaded diplomatic immunity, causing an official complaint to be made to the British Ambassador. Burgess was sent back to England, where he met Maclean in his London club.
The SIS planned to interrogate Maclean on 28 May 1951. On 23 May, concerned that Maclean had not yet fled, Philby wired Burgess, ostensibly about his Lincoln convertible abandoned in the Embassy car park. "If he did not act at once it would be too late," the telegram read, "because [Philby] would send his car to the scrap heap. There was nothing more [he] could do." On 25 May (Maclean's thirty-eighth birthday), Burgess drove Maclean from his home in Tatsfield to Southampton, where the two of them boarded a boat to France and then proceeded to Moscow.
Burgess had been intended to aid Maclean in his escape, not accompany him in it. The "affair of the missing diplomats," as it was referred to before Burgess and Maclean surfaced in Moscow, attracted a great deal of public attention, and Burgess' disappearance, which identified him as complicit in Maclean's espionage, deeply compromised Philby's position. Under a cloud of suspicion raised by his highly visible and intimate association with Burgess, Philby returned to London. There, he underwent MI5 interrogation aimed at ascertaining whether he had acted as a "third man" in Burgess and Maclean's spy ring. In July 1951, he resigned from MI6, preempting his all-but-inevitable dismissal.
Even after Philby's departure from MI6, speculation regarding his possible Soviet affiliations continued. Interrogated repeatedly regarding his intelligence work and his connection with Burgess, he continued to deny that he had acted as a Soviet agent. From 1952, Philby struggled to find work as a journalist, eventually – in August 1954 – accepting a position with a diplomatic newsletter called the Fleet Street Letter. Lacking access to material of value and out of touch with Soviet intelligence, he all but ceased to operate as a Soviet agent.
In October 1955, Philby was officially cleared by Foreign Secretary Harold Macmillan, who told the House of Commons, "I have no reason to conclude that Mr. Philby has at any time betrayed the interests of his country, or to identify him with the so-called 'Third Man', if indeed there was one." In November 1955 Philby gave a press conference in which – calmly, confidently, and without the stammer he had struggled with since childhood – he reiterated his innocence, declaring, "I have never been a communist."
After being exonerated, Philby was no longer employed by MI6 and Soviet intelligence lost all contact with him. In August 1956 he was sent to Beirut as a Middle East correspondent for The Observer and The Economist. There, his journalism served as cover for renewed work for MI6.
In Lebanon, Philby at first lived in Mahalla Jamil, his father's large household located in the village of Ajaltoun, just outside Beirut. Following the departure of his father and stepbrothers for Saudi Arabia, Philby continued to live alone in Ajaltoun, but took a flat in Beirut after beginning an affair with Eleanor, the Seattle-born wife of New York Times correspondent Sam Pope Brewer. Following Aileen Philby's death in England in 1957 and Eleanor's subsequent divorce from Brewer, Philby and Eleanor were married in London in 1959 and set up house together in Beirut. From 1960, Philby's formerly marginal work as a journalist became more substantial and he frequently travelled throughout the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait and Yemen.
In 1961, Anatoliy Golitsyn, a major in the First Chief Directorate of the KGB, defected to the United States from his diplomatic post in Helsinki. Golitsyn offered the CIA revelations of Soviet agents within American and British intelligence services. Following his debriefing in the US, Golitsyn was sent to SIS for further questioning. The head of MI6, Dick White, only recently transferred from MI5, had suspected Philby as the "third man." Golitsyn proceeded to confirm White's suspicions about Philby's role. Nicholas Elliott, an MI6 officer recently stationed in Beirut who was a friend of Philby's and had previously believed in his innocence, was tasked with attempting to secure Philby's full confession.
It is unclear whether Philby had been alerted, but Eleanor noted that as 1962 wore on, expressions of tension in his life "became worse and were reflected in bouts of deep depression and drinking." She recalled returning home to Beirut from a sight-seeing trip in Jordan to find Philby "hopelessly drunk and incoherent with grief on the terrace of the flat," mourning the death of a little pet fox which had fallen from the balcony. When Nicholas Elliott met Philby in late 1962, the first time since Golitsyn's defection, he found Philby too drunk to stand and with a bandaged head; he had fallen repeatedly and cracked his skull on a bathroom radiator, requiring stitches.
Philby told Elliott that he was "half expecting" to see him. Elliott confronted him, saying, "I once looked up to you, Kim. My God, how I despise you now. I hope you've enough decency left to understand why." Prompted by Elliott's accusations, Philby confirmed the charges of espionage and described his intelligence activities on behalf of the Soviets. However, when Elliott asked him to sign a written statement, he hesitated and requested a delay in the interrogation. Another meeting was scheduled to take place in the last week of January. It has since been suggested that the whole confrontation with Elliott had been a charade to convince the KGB that Philby had to be brought back to Moscow, where he could serve as a British penetration agent of Moscow Centre.
On the evening of 23 January 1963, Philby vanished from Beirut, failing to meet his wife for a dinner party at the home of Glencairn Balfour Paul, First Secretary at the British Embassy. The Dolmatova, a Soviet freighter bound for Odessa, had left Beirut that morning so abruptly that cargo was left scattered over the docks; Philby claimed that he left Beirut on board this ship. However, others maintain that he escaped through Syria, overland to Soviet Armenia and thence to Russia.
It was not until 1 July 1963 that Philby's flight to Moscow was officially confirmed. On 30 July Soviet officials announced that they had granted him political asylum in the USSR, along with Soviet citizenship.
When the news broke MI6 came under criticism for failing to anticipate and block Philby's defection, though Elliott was to claim he could not have prevented Philby's flight. Journalist Ben Macintyre, author of several works on espionage, wrote in his 2014 book on Philby that MI6 may have left open the opportunity for Philby to flee to Moscow to avoid an embarrassing public trial. Philby himself thought this might have been the case, according to Macintyre.
Upon his arrival in Moscow, Philby discovered that he was not a colonel in the KGB, as he had been led to believe. He was paid 500 rubles a month and his family was not immediately able to join him in exile. It was ten years before he visited KGB headquarters and he was given little real work. Philby was under virtual house arrest, guarded, with all visitors screened by the KGB. Mikhail Lyubimov, his closest KGB contact, explained that this was to guard his safety, but later admitted that the real reason was the KGB's fear that Philby would return to London.
Philby occupied himself by writing his memoirs, published in the UK in 1968 under the title My Silent War; which was not published in the Soviet Union until 1980. He continued to read the Times, which was not generally available in the USSR, listened to the BBC World Service, and was an avid follower of cricket.
The award of the OBE was cancelled and annulled in 1965. Though Philby claimed publicly in January 1988 that he did not regret his decisions and that he missed nothing about England except some friends, Colman's mustard and Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce, his wife Rufina Ivanovna Pukhova later described Philby as "disappointed in many ways" by what he found in Moscow. "He saw people suffering too much," but he consoled himself by arguing that "the ideals were right but the way they were carried out was wrong. The fault lay with the people in charge." Pukhova said, "he was struck by disappointment, brought to tears. He said, 'Why do old people live so badly here? After all, they won the war.'" Philby drank heavily and suffered from loneliness and depression; according to Rufina, he had attempted suicide by slashing his wrists in the 1960s.
Philby died of heart failure in Moscow in 1988. He was awarded a hero's funeral and numerous medals by the USSR.
In February 1934, Philby married Litzi Friedmann, an Austrian communist whom he had met in Vienna. They subsequently moved to Britain; however, as Philby assumed the role of a fascist sympathiser, they separated. Litzi lived in Paris before returning to London for the duration of the war; she ultimately settled in East Germany.
While working as a correspondent in Spain, Philby began an affair with Frances Doble, Lady Lindsay-Hogg, an actress and aristocratic divorcée who was an admirer of Franco and Hitler. They travelled together in Spain through August 1939.
In 1940 he began living with Aileen Furse in London. Their first three children, Josephine, John and Tommy Philby, were born between 1941 and 1944. In 1946, Philby finally arranged a formal divorce from Litzi; he and Aileen were married on 25 September 1946, while Aileen was pregnant with their fourth child, Miranda. Their fifth child, Harry George, was born in 1950. Aileen suffered from psychiatric problems, which grew more severe during the period of poverty and suspicion following the flight of Burgess and Maclean. She lived separately from Philby, settling with their children in Crowborough while he lived first in London and later in Beirut. Weakened by alcoholism and frequent sickness, she died of influenza in December 1957.
In 1956, Philby began an affair with Eleanor Brewer, the wife of New York Times correspondent Sam Pope Brewer. Following Eleanor's divorce, the two married in January 1959. After Philby defected to the Soviet Union in 1963, Eleanor visited him in Moscow; in November 1964, following a visit to America, she returned, intending to settle permanently. However, in her absence, Philby had begun an affair with Maclean's wife, Melinda. He and Eleanor divorced and she departed Moscow in May 1965.
Melinda left Maclean and briefly lived with Philby in Moscow; in 1968 she returned to Maclean.