Moscow names city square after Kim Philby to honour British defector

Moscow names city square after Kim Philby to honour British defector

Moscow names square after British double agent 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.

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.

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 irony of naming the junction after Philby will not be lost on Mr Putins critics. The Russian president had previously called Col Skripal a scumbag for betraying his homeland while the kremlin does not seem to take the same view of Philby.

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

While Col Skripal and his daughter survived the nerve agent attack, a British woman Dawn Sturgess was killed after inadvertently spraying herself with novichok contained in a perfume bottle discarded by the GRU hit squad.

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.

In the wake of the attack, Theresa May pledged to dismantle the GRU while the two men who carried it out were unmasked as senior GRU agents who had been awarded Russias highest honour by Mr Putin.

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 he was and wondered whether Moscow had run out of names of Russian writers to use.

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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