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One day last October, Khokhlov was summoned to the headquarters of MVD's grim Ninth Otdel, the "terror and diversion" section now under the direct supervision of taciturn Alexander Panyushkin, onetime (1947-52) Soviet Ambassador to the U.S. He was told to proceed to Frankfurt, there to assassinate one Georgi Okolovich, a big shot in the right-wing Russian expatriate organization, NTS, whose Berlin director, Dr. Alexander Trushnovich, was brutally abducted from West Berlin by Communists a fortnight ago (TIME, April 26). Khokhlov said that he went home to talk the matter over with his wife, and both decided that a second refusal of an assignment would mean certain death for Khokhlov, for Yanina and for their year-old son.
Khokhlov suggested that he might go on the mission and let somebody else do the actual killing, but Yanina was adamant. "If this man is killed, you will be the assassin," she said. "I can't remain the wife of a husband who is an assassin." Together they decided that Khokhlov must go on the mission and then defect."! asked her," he said, "if she realized what awaited her if I 'went West.' She knew, and it in no way altered her decision."
After their momentous decision was made, Khokhlov's problem became simply one of following ordersup to the crucial point. With two East German Communists who were to serve as his assistants, Khokhlov went to work. The Germans went through refresher courses in judo, marksmanship and automobile driving. Khokhlov pored over maps of Frankfurt, studied brochures on the NTS and conferred with his boss Panyushkin over weapons and methods.
A Mere Squeeze. The weapons decided on for Khokhlov's mission were specially designed and built according to MVD specifications. As displayed for newsmen in Bonn last week, they were enough to send chills down the hardiest mystery-lover's spine. Two were tiny derringer-like pistols, small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Two were machines of the same type concealed in leather cigarette cases. Fired by flashlight batteries and equipped with expansion chambers to absorb the shock wave, they were almost noiseless, and each was equipped to fire three kinds of bullets: small lead pellets for merely stunning victims, nickeled-steel bullets that proved capable of penetrating 2¼ in. of pine board at 24 ft., and dum-dum slugs smeared with a mixture of potassium cyanide and gum.
The cigarette cases were designed to fire when the lid was open, exposing what looked like a full pack of cigarettes. But the cigarettes were only butt-length tips; behind them was the mechanism designed to fire a charge of poison into a man's bloodstream by a mere squeeze of the finger at the point where the case was naturally held in proffering a smoke.
The mid-January preparations were all made, but Khokhlov was forced to cool his heels in Moscow for almost a month because the Berlin Conference was going on, and Moscow wanted no untoward" incidents. At last, however, the day was set, and Khokhlov set off for Frankfurt, not to kill his victim but to ask his help.