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In April 1956, in what was the first ever official visit by Soviet leadership to a western country, First Secretary of the Communist Party of the USSR Nikita Khrushchev and Chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars Nikolai Bulganin arrived in Britain. The Soviet party arrived aboard the Russian warship Ordzhonikidze, docking in Portsmouth Harbour. The United States were said to be ‘deeply concerned’ that the Soviets would use the visit to strengthen their relationship with the British Labour Party, led by Hugh Gaitskell. However, the Soviets failed to see eye to eye with the Labour Party, announcing they found it easier to talk to Anthony Eden’s Conservatives. The frosty meetings between the Communists and Labour culminated in Gaitskell refusing an official invitation to visit the USSR.
The incident that the visit is most remembered for however was a botched MI6 operation to examine the warship Ordzhonikidze. An MI6 diver, Lionel ‘Buster’ Crabb was sent to examine the hull of the ship and was never seen again; his body was never recovered. In 2007, a retired Russian sailor, Eduard Koltsov, claimed that he had killed Crabb.