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Victor Kravchenko

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I have been interested in the discussions about the release of FBI files concerning the JFK assassination. It is possible that the unwillingness to release the files has anything to do with the assassination.

I have recently been writing about Victor Kravchenko. During the Second World War he served as a Captain in the Red Army on the Eastern Front. In 1942 Joseph Stalin had ordered all former engineers and other vital industrial experts to return to concentrate on increasing military production of armaments. After being vetted by the NKVD he was posted to the Soviet Purchasing Commission in Washington that was involved in implementing the Lend Lease agreement in the summer of 1943.

Kravchenko had been a supporter of Leon Trotsky and a close friend of Sergo Ordzhonikidze, who had been executed by Stalin in 1937. While in the US he came into contact with David Dallin, a former leader of the Mensheviks who had emigrated to the country in 1940. Dallin also introduced Kravchenko to Lilia Estrin, Isaac Don Levine, Max Eastman and Eugene Lyons. Kravchenko also had meetings with the FBI where he had conversations about the possibility of defecting from the Soviet Union.

Kravchenko told the FBI that the Washington office of Soviet Purchasing Commission was under the control of a covert NKVD team. The author of The Anti-Communist Manifestos: Four Books that Shaped the Cold War (2009) has pointed out: "All the executives of the commission were Communist Party members, though most, including Kravchenko, were under instructions to conceal that fact. The most important business was conducted in closed meetings attended only by Party members. In the typical pattern of domestic Soviet industries, there were secret police spies everywhere."

On 1st April, 1944, he sought political asylum in the United States. A few days later the New York Times reported that Kravchenko was "accusing the Soviet Government of a double-faced foreign policy with respect to its professed desire for collaboration with the United States and Great Britain and denouncing the Stalin regime for failure to grant political and civil liberties to the Russian people." The newspaper went on to add: "Mr. Kravchenko declined for patriotic reasons to discuss matters bearing on the military conduct of the war by Soviet Russia or to reveal any details bearing upon economic questions, particularly as they affect the functioning of lend-lease as handled by the Soviet Purchasing Commission and in Russia."

In 2006 Gary Woodward Kern decided to write a book about Kravchenko and discovered that most of the FBI files on him were classified on the grounds of national security. Even those they were willing to release they were heavily redacted. Kravchenko was dead but he had spoken to friends about what he told the FBI in 1943-44. This enabled Kern to discover what had been redacted. It was information about illegalities and profiteering on the part of the American contractors supplying the Soviets as part of the Lend Lease agreement. It seems that the FBI wanted to protect these companies.

Victor Kravchenko died from a gunshot wound in New York City on 25th February 1966. Officially his death was recorded as a suicide. However, his son Andrew believes he was the victim of a Soviet assassination. The released FBI files show that Lyndon B. Johnson took a strong interest in Kravchenko's suicide. He demanded that the FBI determine if his suicide note was authentic or a Soviet fabrication.


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