6 MAY 1972, Page 27

File on the Tsar

Sir: Sir Thomas Preston's letter (April 8) was a welcome vindication of his consular activities in Ekaterinberg, which deserve nothing but the highest admiration and respect.

However, I must point out that he misquotes the telegram sent to the Kremlin by Beloborodov from Ekaterinberg on July 17, 1918. It was in code, and, until 1920, not deciphered, by which time Nicholas Sokolov had arrived in Paris. The decoded text is " Peredaite Sverdlovutcho vse semeistvo postigla tazhe utchastto i glavu offitsiaino semya pogibnet pri evahuatsii." Translated, this reads Tell Sverdloy entire family suffered same fate as head officially family will perish in evacuation."

Note the absence of punctuation — there is no indication in the code, and because of this we have not an unequivocal admission of guilt, but an ambiguous and confusing document. Where do we place the full stop? By different punctuation we arrive at different conclusions. For instance, one can place the stop after ' officially ' or, after head.' Also, what interpretation do we put on the word 'officially '? Does it in fact really mean cover story,' and if so, what was it intended to cover?

This was not the only telegram discovered in Ekaterinberg, in spite of the fact that it was the only one included in the report written by Sokolov at the request of the British Foreign Office in November 1920, and which is now in the Public Records Office in London.

In all, sixty-five telegrams were requisitioned from the Ekaterinberg Central Telegraph Office by Sokolov's predecessor, Ivan Sergeiev, and these, handed over to Sokolov when he took charge of the case, tell us much about the activities of the Ural Soviet, and imply that far from its being in supreme control, its right hand had little co-ordination with its left. There exists a series of telegrams concerning the disappearance of the Grand Duke Michael (the Tsar's brother) and Perm, and the resulting tightening of security at Alapaevsk. Beloborodov's terse request for chapter and verse on the matter seems to be that of the anguished vulture robbed of its prey. In all the telegrams he refers to the disappearance or flight of the Grand Duke, and not his death — but it is possible, of course, that Beloborodov was lying!

When other Romanovs were murdered at Alapaevsk, another series of telegrams appears. Beloborodov asked his henchman Abramov to come from Alapaevsk at once and give him a report: later, he informed Zinoviev in Moscow that the prisoners had been abducted by bandits! Of course, he could have been covering up the fact that he knew all about the affair, which makes his earlier telegram to Sverdlov seem all the more puzzling. There are of course other telegrams. One series is concerned with the shipment of gold and platinum from Perm to Yaroslavl by special train — or ostensibly so. Another even mentions Molotov. Do we accept them at their face value?

Sir Thomas states that the Bolsheviks left 'in a panic: True, but they are still credited with the destruction of eleven bodies over a period of three days. Surely they could have spared a few minutes to destroy sixty-five highly compromising telegrams lodged in a telegraph office which was under their control?

I am not trying to tell a .stunned world that the Imperial Family escaped, or that the Grand Duchess Anastasia is living incognito in Surbiton. All I am saying is that after two years intensive study of this case, I can find no judicially acceptable proof that the Russian Imperial Family died in a cellar at Ekaterinberg.

John Bescoby-Chambers Greenleys, Ashover Road, Old Tupton, Chesterfield, Derbyshire Sir: I saw this programme and have followed the controversy with interest. I declare Mr Szamuely the winner, hands down. Messrs Mangold and Summers are not in the same league.

This is not the only case to illustrate the influence of unwelcome journalistic attitudes on documentary programmes. Dare we hope for an improvement? Harry L. Cook Hardy Cottage, Sussex Lane, Spencers Wood, Reading