Moscow square named after British double agent Kim Philby

Moscow square named after British double agent Kim Philby

Russia names square after British double agent and defector Kim Philby

The move comes as relations between the UK and Russia are at lows not seen since the cold war over the poisoning of the former double agent Sergei Skripal, allegedly by Russian spies.

Sergei Sobyanin, the mayor of Moscow, ordered that an intersection in a south-west district be renamed Kim Philby Square, according to a decree posted on a local government website.

But eyebrows will be raised that Moscow is doing so just weeks after the GRU, Russias military intelligence unit, was identified as being behind the attempted assassination of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury in March. Colonel Skripal, 67, was poisoned with novichok nerve agent but survived the attack along with his daughter Yulia, 33.

A city hall spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on the decision, while local residents expressed surprise on social networks, saying Philby had nothing to do with the neighbourhood.

Col Skripal was a senior officer in the GRU who had been caught selling secrets to MI6 and sent to the UK in a spy swap. Philby is reckoned to have been the most successful member of the Cambridge spy ring that betrayed MI6 and provided secret information to the Soviet Union over three decades.

Read more Philby, who died in Moscow in 1988, was perhaps the best-known member of the Cambridge Five spy ring, a group of British establishment figures who were recruited to work for the Soviets.

Local residents expressed bewilderment that the junction was being renamed after Philby when he never lived in the neighbourhood. A Moscow city hall spokesman declined to comment on why the road junction was being renamed after Philby and the timing of it.

After his defection Philby lived in central Moscow, far from the windswept square in a relatively new part of the city that is almost exclusively made up of residential towers.

The intersection is however close to the sprawling campus of the SVR, or foreign intelligence service.

The agency has maintained Philbys legacy, with a page on its website dedicated to him and the intelligence he provided during the second world war.

The SVR director, Sergei Naryshkin, spoke at an event last year to mark the unveiling of a portrait of the spy at a gallery in Moscow.

Sergei Sobyanin, the Moscow mayor and one of Vladimir Putins closest allies, personally ordered that an obscure intersection in the south west of the city be renamed Kim Philby Square. 

At the event, intelligence veterans suggested a street should be named after the defector because he enjoyed walking around the city.

But several residents of Yasenevo district said on a neighbourhood Facebook group they had no idea who Philby was and wondered if Moscow had run out of names of Russian writers to use.

But several residents of Yasenevo district said on a neighbourhood Facebook group they had no idea who he was and wondered whether Moscow had run out of names of Russian writers to use.

After his defection Philby lived in central Moscow, far from the windswept intersection in a relatively new part of the city that is almost exclusively made up of residential towers.

They should have named the ramp leading to their campus after him instead, wrote Katerina Reatsea, referring to the intelligence agency.

Philby, along with other members of the ring, were recruited at Cambridge University in the 1930s. He died in Moscow in 1988 aged 76, having been awarded the Order of Lenin in 1965.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin backed the move to honour the spy, who was part of the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring

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