Vladimir Pravdin or Roland Abbiate was born 15 August 1905 in London, who lived at one time in the United States during the early twenties. Pravdin was a senior KGB agent. His wife, Olga Pravdin, also served in the KGB. During the 1930s, Pravdin had been involved in killings and kidnappings in Europe for the KGB, including the assassination of Ignace Reiss, a GRU officer who defected in 1937. Reiss was caught by the NKVD in Switzerland, where he was killed as an object lesson to potential defectors. Pravdin disappeared after the murder. Later, during World War II, he turned up again in the United States where he served as a Soviet diplomat, Vladimir Sergeyvich Pravdin.
Later, in the United States, Pravdin operated under cover as the head of TASS News Agency from 1944 to 1945. Among Pravdin's contacts while serving in the United States were Judith Coplon Josef Katz, Bernard Schuster, and Josef Berger.
In Washington Pravdin made the acquaintance of I. F. Stone. Pravdin had several times tried to contact him through Samuel Krafsur, but the impression was created that Stone was avoiding a meeting. At the first conversation Pravdin told Stone that he had very much desired to make his acquaintance since he greatly valued his work as a correspondent, and had likewise heard flattering things. Stone gave the Soviet's information, according to 23 October 1944 Venona decryption. Stone said that he had noticed the KGB's attempts to contact him, particularly through the attempts of Krafsur, and of people of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, but he had reacted negatively, fearing the consequences. At the same time Stone implied that the attempts at rapprochement had been made with insufficient caution and by people who were insufficiently responsible. To Pravdin's reply, that Soviet intelligence did not want to subject Stone to unpleasant complications, Stone gave him to understand that he was not refusing his aid, but one should consider that Stone had three children and did not want to attract the attention of the FBI. To Pravdin's question how Stone considered it advisable to maintain liaison, Stone replied that he would be glad to meet but he rarely visited New York. Stone's fear was partially explained by his unwillingness to spoil his career. Materially he was well off. Stone was earning as much as $1500 a month but, it seems, he expressed he was not averse to having a supplementary income. For the establishment of business contact with Stone, the KGB insisted on reciprocity. Pravdin told Moscow that Stone would continue to talk to him only if he were paid. Thereafter, Pravdin and Stone continued to meet.
In 1945, while serving as a senior adviser to the American delegation at the founding conference of the United Nations, Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury Harry Dexter White met with Pravdin and answered a series of questions about U.S. negotiating strategy and possible ways for Moscow to defeat or water down American post-War proposals.
Pravdin left the United States and returned to the Soviet Union on 11 March 1946.
Anatoli Golitsyn, another Soviet defector in the 1960s, also claimed that Pravdin was active in Austria after World War II, often passing as a Frenchman.
- United States. A Counterintelligence Reader. Vol. 1 Chap. 4. National Counterintelligence Center. no date.
- FBI Venona file
- FBI Albert Einstein file
- Venona: Decoding Espionage in America, John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, Yale University Press, 1999, pgs. 53, 158, 212, 225, 237, 240, 241, 242, 243, 248.
- The Venona Story by Robert L. Benson