The Russian capital’s mayor, Sergei Sobyanin, ordered the renaming of an intersection close to the headquarters of the country’s foreign intelligence service on Tuesday.
The move, which came as a surprise to many local residents, is announced during a period of troubled relations between the UK and Russia following the poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in Salisbury earlier this year.
Perhaps Britain’s most famous Cold War traitor and member of the Cambridge Five, Harold “Kim” Philby was a senior MI6 officer who in 1963 was exposed for passing information to the Russians for three decades.
He died in Moscow in 1988 and is said to have enjoyed walking around the city, although he lived in a residential neighbourhood far from the intersection now named after him.
Some residents wrote on a neighbourhood Facebook page that they had no idea who Philby was and suggested he had nothing to do with the local area.
The intelligence agency “should have named the ramp leading to their campus after him instead,” one user wrote.
Russia’s foreign intelligence agency have maintained tributes to the spy, with a website page dedicated to him and the information he provided the Russians in the Second World War, and a portrait revealed last year.
The Cambridge Five – a ring of high-profile men who were recruited as Soviet informers while at the university in the 1930s – also included Guy Burgess, a journalist and MI6 officer, and Anthony Blunt, who worked for MI5 during the war and went on to have a distinguished career as an art historian.
Philby, who joined MI6 in the Second World War, became head of the agency’s anti-Soviet section toward the end of the war, while operating unbeknown as a KGB agent.
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