30 APRIL 1954, Page 3

Captain Khokhlov and his Wife

Ordinary people, with no real knowledge of the hidden ways of espionage, are reluctant to know the worst when they see it. Perhaps this is sufficient explanation of the ten- dency here to relegate the story of Captain Nikolai Khokhlov of the MVD and his vest-pocket murder machine (the cigarette case neatly designed to shoot a cyanide bullet into the person of an anti-Communist Russian in Frankfurt) to the realm of fantasy. The fact that the story broke so soon after the Petrov affair in Australia, and shortly before the opening of the Geneva Conference, probably has something to do with the general incredulity. There was also the frankness—eagerness, even—with which Khokhlov implicated his wife, whom he left behind in Moscow and who has now, not surprisingly, disap- peared.' But it may as well be recognised, first, that nothing is too grotesque to believe of the Russian secret service and its machinations, and secondly, that when it comes to a con- fession a Russian is all too likely to go the whole hog and a bit more. And yet. if there is nothing necessarily fishy about the story there is Certainly something unfortunate. Assuming that Khoklov's fully detailed statement at the Press conference in Bonn was true, then it may simply be observed that it is in the nature of the Russian to act thus. But the American authorities can hardly be said to have handled the case with enough discretion. If Khokhlov's wife in Moscow is even now in danger of her life, the responsibility rests less with Khokhlov than with those into whose hands he delivered himself.