Moscow names ‘Kim Philby Square’ to honor British defector

Kim Philby, who died in Moscow in 1988, was perhaps the best-known member of the notorious spy ring, the Cambridge Five. (Getty Images)
Updated 08 November 2018
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Moscow names ‘Kim Philby Square’ to honor British defector

  • Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered that an intersection in a southwestern district be renamed Kim Philby Square
  • Move comes as relations between London and Moscow have plunged to Cold War-era lows

MOSCOW: Moscow this week named a square after Kim Philby, the British double agent who defected to the Soviet Union in 1963, near the headquarters of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

The move comes as relations between London and Moscow have plunged to Cold War-era lows over the poisoning of the former double-agent Sergei Skripal in England, allegedly by Russian spies.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin ordered that an intersection in a southwestern district be renamed “Kim Philby Square,” according to a decree carried on the local government website on Tuesday.

A city hall spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment on the decision, while local residents expressed surprise on social networks, saying Philby never had anything to do with the neighborhood.

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

Considered Britain’s biggest Cold War traitor, Philby was a senior MI6 officer. He was exposed in 1963 after passing information to Moscow over three decades.

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.

The square is however close to the sprawling campus of the SVR, Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service.

The agency has maintained Philby’s legacy, with a page on its website dedicated to him and the intelligence he provided during World War II.

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

Intelligence veterans suggested at that event that a street should be named after the defector because he enjoyed walking around the city.

But several residents of Yasenevo district said on a neighborhood Facebook group they had no idea who he was and wondered if 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 user Katerina Reatsea, referring to the intelligence agency.


Grappling with taboos, Iraqi women join wrestling squad

Updated 15 November 2018
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Grappling with taboos, Iraqi women join wrestling squad

DIWANIYA, Iraq: The toughest fight that Iraqi freestyle wrestler Alia Hussein ever faced was convincing her family that women should be allowed to grapple.
The 26-year-old student was a keen cyclist and basketball player but when she told her family last year that she wanted to try her hand at the physical world of wrestling she was met with abuse.
"I was humiliated and even beaten by my family, but I defied them all," Hussein told Reuters.
"I feel that I can express myself through this sport. I wanted to prove to society that wrestling is not confined to men only and that Iraqi women can be wrestlers and can win and fight."
On the blue mats of the Al-Rafideen Club in the conservative city of Diwaniya, some 180 km (110 miles) south of Baghdad, Hussein trains three times a week with 30 other female wrestlers, some still wearing headscarves. When a big competition comes up, they train every day.
In September, Hussein won a silver medal in the 75 kg (165 lb) freestyle category at a regional event in Lebanon and gold at a local tournament in Baghdad.
"I faced opposition from my family at the beginning, but after my participation in Baghdad and Beirut tournaments they started to encourage me, thank God," Hussein said.
This is the second attempt by the Iraqi Wrestling Federation (IWF) to grow women's wrestling, this time prompted by the threat of a ban by the sport's global body if they didn't.
The first ended when the club in Diwaniya was disbanded in 2012 after complaints from the local community that the sport was in defiance of local traditions and culture.
The IWF has managed to recruit 70 female wrestlers who train at 15 clubs across the country, a spokesman for the body said. Each is entitled to a payment of 100,000 Iraqi dinars ($84) a month, but the money has stopped for the last three months as the IWF invests in a new wrestling hall in Baghdad.
Despite the financial offer, recruitment is tough.
Nihaya Dhaher Hussein, a 50-year-old school teacher, is the driving force behind the burgeoning team in Diwaniya which started in 2016.
She drives the squad to practice, trains them and undertakes the dangerous task of convincing families to let their daughters, sisters or wives wrestle.
"A woman wrestling is alien to our conservative tribal society," she said. "The idea is hard to accept. It was so difficult to attract girls and convince their families.
"I was threatened myself by a brother of a player who verbally abused me and tried to hit me. It is so difficult to bring them to training and return them to their houses."