Jan. 14, 1987: Fire hits So­viet con­sulate

Montreal Gazette - - CITY -

On Jan. 14, 1987, a fire de­stroyed the So­viet Union’s con­sulate on du Musée Ave. This photo by Pierre Oben­drauf, pub­lished in the Mon­treal Gazette the fol­low­ing day, shows Mon­treal fire­fight­ers spray­ing wa­ter from out­side the three-storey man­sion. Con­sular staff had not been in a rush to ac­cept help. They had first tried to put out the blaze them­selves, us­ing gar­den hoses, fire ex­tin­guish­ers and buck­ets of snow, we re­ported. When fire­fight­ers were fi­nally per­mit­ted to en­ter the build­ing, they were closely fol­lowed, and not al­lowed to stay long. “They got re­ally ner­vous when we climbed the stairs to the third floor,” Capt. Jean-Paul Gi­rard told our re­porter. “That’s when they kicked us out again.” Un­der in­ter­na­tional law, au­thor­i­ties of the host coun­try can­not en­ter a for­eign con­sulate with­out per­mis­sion. The fire, which sent clouds of black smoke over the city, de­stroyed the con­sulate’s in­te­rior. How­ever, only two in­juries were re­ported. The in­ci­dent, which took place as the Cold War was wind­ing down, gave rise to spec­u­la­tion about why ex­actly the con­sular of­fi­cials had been so ret­i­cent to let out­siders into their build­ing. It was gen­er­ally as­sumed that the of­fi­cials were try­ing to pro­tect es­pi­onage op­er­a­tions, and that staff were at­tempt­ing to re­move lists of spies and their con­tacts, and equip­ment re­lated to elec­tronic sur­veil­lance, codes and cipher ma­chines. Our re­port quoted John Sawatsky, an au­thor on Cana­dian counter-in­tel­li­gence ac­tiv­i­ties, as say­ing the con­sulate’s fil­ing sys­tem of lo­cal agents and con­tacts would be the “crown jewels.” “The So­vi­ets would let them­selves burn rather than leave the build­ing with that in­for­ma­tion in­tact.”

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.