Oswald’s Kostikov letter

A Mysterious letter

Some time before 12 November 1963 someone typed this letter, dated 9 November, 1963 on a typewriter that allegedly belonged to Ruth Paine, a friend of Marina Oswald. Marina was the wife of Lee Harvey Oswald, the man charged with the Dallas, Texas assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, incumbent president of the United States of America.

At the time this letter was mailed to the Washington embassy of the USSR, Marina had been for some time living with Ruth Paine because Mrs Paine decided to accommodate Marina during a time of marital difficulty between Marina and Lee.  On or before 12 November 1963 someone mailed this letter, postmarked in Irving, Texas, to the Consular Division of the Embassy of the USSR in Washington, D.C.

The Warren Commission into the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, apparently convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald was the “lone nut” assassin of President Kennedy, concluded Lee Harvey Oswald both authored and mailed the letter. A closer study of this letter and the circumstances of its creation suggest that the Warren Commission may be mistaken in its conclusions.

The letter read (as written):

This is to inform you of recent events since my meetings with comrade Kostin in the Embassy Of the Soviet Union, Mexico City, Mexico.

I was unable to remain in Mexico indefinitely because of my mexican visa restrictions which was for 15 days only. I could not tke a chance on requesting a new visa unless I used my real name, so I returned to the United States.

I had not planned to contact the Soviet embassy in Mexico so they were unprepared, had I been able to reach the Soviet Embassy in Havana as planned, the embassy there would have had time to complete our business.

Of corse the Soviet embassy was not at fault, they were, as I say unprepared, the Cuban consulate was guilty of gross breach of regulations, I am glad he has since been replaced.

The Federal Bureu of Investigation is not now interested in my activities in the progressive organization Fair Play For Cuba Committee, of which I was the secretary in New Orleans (state Louisiana) since I no longer reside in that state. However, the F.B.I. has visited us here in Dallas, Texas, on November 1. Agent James P. Hasty warned me that if I engaged in F.P.P.C. activities in Texas the F.B.I. will again take an ‘interest’ in me.

This agent also ‘suggested’ to Marina Nichilayova that she could remain in the United States under F.B.I. ‘protection.’ that is, she could defect from the Soviet Uion, of course, I and my wife strongly protested these tactics by the notorious F.B.I.

Please inform us of the arrival of our Soviet entrance visa’s as soon as they come.

Also, this is to inform you of the birth, on October 20, 1963, of a DAUGHTER, AUDREY MARINA OSWALD in DALLAS, TEXAS, to my wife.

Troubling Questions

Mailing a letter to the Soviet Embassy in Washington D.C. guaranteed that it would be intercepted and read by the FBI. However, only intelligence service insiders (and the government of the USSR) had certain knowledge of the FBI’s mail intercept program. (Note: the FBI program must be distinguished from the parallel CIA program, HTLINGUAL. So far as is known, the CIA did not share HTLINGUAL or related operations products with the FBI.) In the event, the letter was intercepted, read, and details of the letter were forwarded to Director J Edgar Hoover on 19 November, 1963 — three days before Kennedy’s assassination.

As a result of a series of mysterious events, at least three contemporary versions of this letter are known to exist. In apparent chronological order of creation, these three versions are a handwritten draft, allegedly in Oswald’s hand, the letter sent to the Soviet Embassy, and a handwritten copy of the letter in the hand of Ruth Paine. Paine testified to the Warren Commission that she took the unusual step of copying the purported original because its potentially seditious contents worried her sufficiently to resolve to pass on her version of the letter to FBI agents who had twice visited the Paine family residence in search of the elusive Lee Harvey Oswald.

Rather extraordinarily, when the Warren Commission turned its attention to the circumstances and significance of the letter, its counsel and members heard testimony based not on the copy received at the Soviet Embassy, which the government of the USSR helpfully supplied by normal diplomatic channels to the government of the USA, nor on the draft allegedly in Oswald’s hand. Instead the Commission relied on Ruth Paine’s crib. 

The strange career of Ruth Paine’s cribbed version of the letter sheds light on the fear of the FBI that the letter may thwart their efforts to establish Lee Harvey Oswald in the public mind as a “lone nut” whose murder of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was planned and performed by Oswald, and Oswald alone. The Russian Embassy version remained uninterrogated. That version was consigned to an appendix of the Warren Commission report. 

The strange career of the fair copy of the letter mailed to the Soviet Embassy illuminates the danger the letter and the information contained in it posed to world peace and the looming peril of a nuclear war between the USA and the USSR, the world’s superpowers.

Perhaps most intriguing of all, however, is the scrappy draft, allegedly in Oswald’s hand. This document sprang into existence and was inserted into the chain of evidence in such a way as to cast doubt upon its bona fides as the nascent thoughts and half formed expressions of a notorious assassin. 

Lee Harvey Oswald was incapable of giving his version of these mysteries because Jack Ruby assassinated him on Sunday 24 November 1963.

Researchers have long questioned the authenticity of the copy of the letter introduced into evidence in the Warren Commission. All three versions of the letter contain several unexplained errors and misstatements:

1. The ostensible purpose of the statement “unless I use my real name” may have been to implicate the ostensible crucial readers, officers in various departments of the government of the USSR, in Oswald’s purported nefarious conduct in Mexico. This misinformation could not fool employees of the Soviet diplomatic service. At least two officers of the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City conversed personally with Oswald and knew him by his real name. If the author of the letter wanted its unacknowledged readers (presumably not the officers of the Soviet Embassy) to conclude that Oswald never travelled to Mexico City under his own name, then this statement provided the answer to the question why US authorities were unable to track Oswald’s movements in Mexico. Field officers of the CIA who failed to identify Oswald during his time in Mexico City might have wanted it suggested that they failed because he was using a false name. It is known that the real Oswald did cross the Mexican border at the relevant times. However, there are strong indications that another man was impersonating Oswald in Mexico City. This sentence must have puzzled and troubled Soviet authorities, strengthening their suspicion that the letter was a fake or a provocation, or both.

2. The purpose of the statement the “embassy there would have had time to complete our business” is extremely provocative and gives the impression that Oswald and Soviet government officers were working together on some scheme inimical to US national interests. The author of the letter clearly wanted to give the impression that Oswald and the Soviets were in cahoots. This impression was relevant only if there was to be some occasion for the letter to be made public.

3. The author of the letter wrote that James P. Hosty warned him on November 1 “If I engaged in FPCC activities in Texas the FBI will again take an interest in me.” The only people who met FBI agent James Hosty or knew that he visited the Paine residence were Ruth Paine and Marina. Lee Harvey Oswald never met with Hosty on 1 November or any other time prior to Kennedy’s assassination. Therefore the people who knew about Hosty’s visit prior to November 9 were Oswald, Ruth Paine, Marina, Hosty himself, his partner, and readers of Hosty’s FBI reports.

4. NOTE. Immediately following the assassination J. Edgar Hoover denied the FBI had any knowledge of Oswald. When the November 9 letter was made public it caused considerable embarrassment for the FBI because of Hosty’s failed attempts to converse with Oswald only three weeks before the assassination. The first time Oswald came into personal contact with Hosty was on the afternoon of 22 November, when Hosty sat in during Oswald’s interrogation in relation to the assassination of Kennedy.

5. Marina’s maiden name, Marina Nikolaevna Prusakova, was spelled as Nichilayova, a mistake that Russian speaking Harvey Oswald is highly unlikely to make accidentally. This suggests that either Oswald was not the author of the letter, or that he wished to discredit the letter.

6. The author of the letter informed the Soviet Embassy that Oswald’s newborn daughter was named “Audrey Marina Oswald,” when her legal and true name was “Audrey Marina Rachel Oswald,” a mistake that Harvey Oswald would not make accidentally.

7. Perhaps the most important key in understanding whether this letter  contained only Oswald’s world view was the statement, “…he has since been replaced.” The author of this letter was referring to the Cuban Consul in Mexico City, Eusebio Azcue Lopez. At the time this letter was written Azcue had not been replaced in his consular role and was still in Mexico City (he did not return to Cuba until November 18). Oswald allegedly visited the Cuban Consulate on 27 September 1963 and spoke briefly and acrimoniously with Azcue.

After leaving Mexico City there is no way that Oswald could have discovered for himself that Azcue would be replaced by Mirabor two months later. Whoever wrote this letter had knowledge of operations within the Cuban Consulate and prior knowledge that Azcue was returning to Cuba. One person who had access to this privileged information, perhaps through telephone taps and hidden microphones in the Cuban Consulate, and could have provided such information to the writer of the letter was the head of Cuban Operations in Mexico City, David Atlee Phillips, a native of Ft. Worth.

It cannot be stressed too strongly that at the very least, Oswald’s purported foreknowledge of the future course of the career of Eusebio Azcue Lopez disqualifies the letter as the production of a loner without a network of information and contacts in diplomatic and/or intelligence circles. It is also possible that Oswald played only a small role or even no hand at all in authoring this letter. (Though he may have typed it, on instruction).

The Role of Ruth Paine

Ruth Paine was one of the few people who knew about FBI Special Agent Hosty’s visit to her home on 1 November 1963, and was the person who allegedly owned the typewriter that was used to type the letter that was eventually delivered to the Embassy of the USSR in Washington, D.C.

NOTE: FBI SA James Wood obtained typewriting specimens from a Smith-Corona portable typewriter; Serial Number 4A 303942, allegedly owned by Ruth Paine, that matched the typewriting on the letter to the Soviet Embassy.


The Dallas Police obtained numerous letters and correspondence from Ruth Paine’s house following the assassination, but all her correspondence was in her own handwriting — not a single item was typewritten. Thus the only document found at the Paine’s house that was written on the Smith-Corona portable typewriter was the mysterious letter addressed to the Soviet Embassy. This typewriter, which was possibly not owned by Mrs. Paine prior to the November 9 letter, is known to have been used on only one occasion — to type the letter to the Soviet Embassy that was used to link Lee Harvey Oswald with Soviet officers. These facts suggest that Ruth Paine participated in the creation of this letter with an individual who had intimate knowledge of operations within the Cuban Consulate in Mexico City, possibly David Atlee Phillips.

After Kennedy’s assassination a “rough draft” of this letter, that was NOT found by Dallas Police, was given to FBI agents James Hosty and Joe B. Abernathy on November 23 and is the first document that linked Oswald with Mexico City. As stated below, Ruth Paine claimed that she tucked this draft into her desk secretary where it had eluded the police search of her residence on the night of 22 November. This is a strange instance of forgetfulness, given the dramatic circumstances of the search. Abernathy wrote, “Mrs. Paine stated that she came to believe from a rough draft (handwritten copy-C.E. 103) of a letter that Lee Harvey Oswald left lying around the house that he had travelled to Mexico City where he contacted the Soviet Embasssy and apparently the Cuban Embassy.”

One Letter. Many Versions

HSCA transcript of the purported draft of Oswald’s Kostikov letter, including the changes that were made in it while it was being written.

“[A]mong the documents turned over to the United States by the Soviet Union after the assassination of the President, included in the file purporting to be the entire correspondence between the Oswalds and the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C ., was the following letter dated November 9, 1963 :
“DEAR Sirs : This is to inform you of recent events since my meetings with comrade hostin in the Embassy of the Soviet Union, Mexico City, Mexico. “I was unable to remain in Mexico indefinitely because of my Mexican visa restrictions which was for 15 days only. I could not take a chance on requesting a new visa unless I used my real name, so I returned to the United States. “I had not planned to contact the Soviet Embassy in Mexico so they were unprepared, had I been able to reach the Soviet Embassy in Havana as planned, the embassy there would have bad time to complete our business . “Of course the Soviet Embassy was not at fault, they were, as I say unprepared, the Cuban consulate was guilty of a gross breach of regulations, I am glad he has since been replaced. “The Federal Bureau of Investigation is not now interested in my activities in the progressive organization `Fair Play for Cuba Committee,’ of which I was secretary in New Orleans (State Louisiana) since I no longer reside in that State. However, the FBI has visited us here in Dallas, Tex., on November 1. Agent James P. Hasty [sic] warned me that if I engaged in FPCO activities in Texas the FBI will again take an `interest’ in me. “This agent also `suggested’ to Marina Nichilayeva that she could remain in the United States under FBI ‘protection,’ that is, she could defect from the Soviet Union, of cours, I and my wife strongly protested these tactics by the notorious FBI. “Please inform us of the arrival of our Soviet entrance visas’s [sic] as soon as they come. “Also, this is to inform you of the birth on October 20, 1963, of a daughter, Audrey Marina Oswald in Dallas, Tex., to my wife. “Respectfully, (s) LEE H. OSWALD”

Curiously, the typewritten version of the November 9 letter contains six words that are spelled incorrectly while in the handwritten draft those same six words are spelled correctly. This is an indication the handwritten rough draft was created after the typewritten letter. There is NO indication that the FBI tested this letter for fingerprints. http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?/topic/23278-the-handwritten-letter-compared-with-the-typed-one-et-cetera/&do=findComment&comment=339371

Ruth Paine testified to the Warren Commission that Lee asked to use her typewriter on Saturday, 9 November or Sunday, 10 November and that she let him use it at the dining table, which was the only table in the house.

Paine testified that at one point she went to put one of her children in a high chair and Lee shielded her from seeing what he was writing.

Paine testified that later she noticed that Lee had left the rough draft on top of her desk secretary, which was located in the living room. She described the draft document as a one page handwritten draft on 8×10 standard size paper folded in half. https://www.maryferrell.org/showDoc.html?docId=1199&relPageId=38

At some point Sunday afternoon she made her own handwritten copy of the draft. It is important to note that in all Warren Commission dealings of this incident it was Paine’s transcription and NOT either the original supplied by the Soviet Union or the alleged draft that were referred to. This is very mysterious. http://www.swarthmore.edu/library/friends/ead/5109pain.xml

Paine testified that on the evening of 10 November she asked Michael and Lee to move some furniture, swapping the locations of her desk secretary and her living room couch. When she noticed that the original draft was still on her desk secretary she hid it inside and closed it.

Later that evening she showed it (doesn’t state which document she showed) to her husband Michael and they discussed it briefly.

On Monday Paine took Lee down to the DMV but it was closed for Veteran’s Day.

On Monday night she sat on the living room couch with Lee while he watched his “spy show” (“Espionage” Premiere on NBC) and Lee asked if she was troubled by her upcoming lawyer appointment to find out about divorcing Michael.

According to the County Clerk Ruth Paine filed for Divorce on 13 November 1963.

If Ruth Paine had the handwritten letter prior to the assassination, as she claims, then why didn’t she discuss it with Marina or Lee HARVEY Oswald? When shown the handwritten “rough draft” on January 22, 1964 Marina told the FBI agents that Mrs. Paine had not discussed this letter or its contents with her. More mysteriously, how did this draft slip Ruth Paine’s memory while her House was being searched by the Dallas Police?

Hiding the Letter 1

NOTE: On April 17 1964 the Warren Commission requested the FBI return her copy of the letter to Ruth Paine. On April 28 Mrs. Paine sent her copy of the letter back to the Commission along with a note stating that she thought the letter was an historical document and should be placed in the public archives. Without explanation the Commission disagreed and returned the letter to Mrs. Paine. This is odd behaviour on the part of the staff of the Warren Commission.

Hiding the Letter 2

During Oswald’s interrogation on the afternoon of November 22 FBI Special Agent Hosty asked Oswald if he had ever written to the Russian Embassy in a connection with a visit to Mexico City. Oswald replied that he had not. How did Hosty know how to frame such a specific question before the posted letter was produced by the Soviet Embassy and the alleged draft of the letter was discovered? The answer to this question was provided in the 1975 HSCA testimony of James P. Hosty.

Preparatory to his 22 November post-assassination interrogation of Oswald, Hosty accessed Oswald’s Dallas FBI file. In it, he found two remarkable items. One was a paraphrase of the purported letter dated 9 November 1963 to the Soviet Embassy in Washington DC. This paraphrase was certainly an internal FBI document generated by officers responsible for the FBI’s mail intercept program. The other was a CIA Mexico City Station report dated 10 October 1963 detailing Oswald’s meeting at the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City a little more than a week previously with Valeriy Kostikov, a KGB officer. Hosty implied that he had never seen the FBI paraphrase before 22 November. He made no such implication about the second document.

Significantly, the date stamp indicates that the CIA document entered Oswald’s file on or about 25 October 1963. This date is one week before Hosty’s first of two searches for Oswald at the Paine residence in Irving, Texas in early November. Did the arrival of the CIA report trigger Hosty’s search? Presumably, Hosty consulted and/or refreshed Oswald’s file in light of his search for Oswald and his conversations with Ruth Paine.

Notwithstanding, Hosty’s knowledge of the paraphrase of the 9 November letter proved to be vexatious. He used the information contained therein on 22 November to quiz Oswald on his journey to Mexico City. It is worth noting that in the paraphrase Kostikov is referred to as Kostin, as per the letter. However, in his interrogation of Oswald on 22 November Hosty referred to Kostikov by his correct name, as provided in the 10 October CIA report. This strongly implies that Hosty had viewed and digested the contents of the CIA report on or before 22 November. But on what date was his earliest sighting of this document? Did he sight it before he went off in search of Oswald at the Paine residence in Irving, Texas?

Hosty’s troubles with the 9 November 1963 letter deepened in May 1964. Hosty prepared himself for his testimony to the Warren Commission. Commission lawyer Samuel Stern quizzed Hosty in the presence of former Assistant to the Director Alan Belmont concerning his conversation with an officer of the Secret Service. Hosty claimed he mentioned to Commission lawyer Stern that Oswald’s FBI Dallas Office file contained the FBI Washington Field Office airtel (i.e., the FBI mail intercept paraphrase of the 9 November, 1963 letter addressed to the Soviet Embassy). According to Hosty, when Belmont heard Hosty imparting this information to Stern, Belmont sharply stated in anger, “I told them not to let you see the airtel.” Clearly, a SNAFU in Washington combined with Hosty’s diligence had compromised the presumed secrecy of the FBI mail intercept program. (Of course, the Soviets were well aware of the fact that Washington’s gentlemen were reading Soviet gentlemen’s mail. Only the citizenry of the United States were unaware of how their taxes were put to use.)

For the purposes of this episode, it suffices to note that the leadership of the FBI presumed that Oswald was the actual author of the 9 November letter, that the leadership of the FBI was aware of the letter and considered it to be valuable information, that the FBI was for the purposes of post assassination enquiries, keen to distance itself from any charge that it had pre-assassination knowledge of Oswald’s activities, especially concerning his Mexico adventure, and that the FBI would be compelled to conclude that the troubling letter, as phrased, cast doubts on the thesis of the FBI that Oswald acted alone in his mysterious endeavours. Indeed, the letter indicated that he was in cahoots with none other than the dreaded KGB!
In the event, the Warren Commission spared the blushes of the FBI over its efforts to label Oswald as a “lone nut”. James Hosty testified before the Commission in early May 1964. Hosty was questioned closely on the FBI files of Lee Harvey Oswald, Marina Oswald and Ruth Paine. The Commission evinced particular interest in how these files were generated, managed, and shared. Even the report of the Mexico City CIA station on Oswald’s activities was alluded to as the work of “another agency”. However, Hosty was required to answer no questions at all about the troublesome paraphrase of the 9 November letter that was undoubtedly in Oswald’s FBI file. Clearly this letter raised serious issues about the logicality of the hypothesis that Oswald was a “lone nut.” The troublesome paraphrase of the letter, undoubtedly the most fascinating document in Oswald’s file, was stuffed down the memory tube.


On November 22, 1963, shortly after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and shortly after learning that Lee Harvey Oswald was a prime suspect I attempted to locate his pending file and, after determining that the file was out of the jacket, searched the Chief Clerk’s office. One of the supervisor[s], Charles Loeffler, located this file and immediately handed it to me. I noticed on the top of the file was an airtel from Washington Field Office to the Bureau dated either November 18 or 19, 1963, block stamped into the Dallas Office 11/22/63. Supervisor Kenneth Howe had apparently already seen this airtel since he had written my name in the block stamp. I don’t recall if the airtel had already been serialized. On the way back to the SAC’s office I read this airtel and was able to determine it was a letter intercept to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D. C. from Lee Harvey Oswald telling of his recent contact with V. Kostikov, KGB agent to Mexico City. I took this file to the Special Agent in Charge and was shortly thereafter instructed to proceed to the Dallas Police Department to interrogate Oswald. I never received this airtel through normal channels.

On the afternoon of November 22, 1963, I had advised the Special Agent in Charge of the Secret Service in Dallas, Texas, that his office in Washington should contact our office in Washington since we had two items of secret information which I could not give him. The two items of secret information were this airtel in question and an earlier CIA communication dated October 10, 1963, from Mexico City concerning Oswald’s contact.

In the early part of May, 1964, while reviewing the file on Oswald prior to my testimony before the Warren Commission I was unable to locate this airtel which I considered to be highly pertinent since it involved my knowledge of Oswald’s contacts with the Soviet authorities.

On approximately May 4, 1964, while being questioned by the Warren Commission Staff Attorney Samuel Stern in the presence of former Assistant to the Director Alan Belmont concerning my conversation with Secret Service I mentioned to Stern the Washington Field Office airtel, Belmont immediately stated in anger, “I told them not to let you see that airtel.”

If the May 1964 Warren Commission briefing session conducted by Commission lawyer Samuel Stern of FBI Special Agent James Hosty in the annoyed presence of Assistant to the Director of the FBI Alan Belmont proceeded as described by James Hosty, then it is prime evidence of a cover up. Alan Belmont’s explosive reaction to Hosty’s disclosure that he had viewed the Washington airtel synopsis of the intercepted Kostikov letter should have alerted Samuel Stern to both its existence and its significance in the thinking and planning of the FBI. Yet James Hosty was never questioned about it during his testimony. This is powerful evidence that the investigative staff of the Warren Commission were invested in presenting Lee Harvey Oswald as a lone nut, regardless of contradictory evidence. 

Soviets Disclose the Letter

On November 27, 1963 the Soviet Embassy in Washington sent a cable to Moscow and advised the letter was “clearly a provocation; it gives the impression we had close ties to Oswald and were using him for some purposes of our own.”

When the Soviet Embassy received the letter they concluded it was either a forgery or a deliberate provocation and, therefore, did not send a reply to Oswald.

On November 30, 1963 Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly F. Dobrynin turned over a Soviet consular file on Lee Harvey Oswald to Secretary of State Dean Rusk. There was nothing in the file to indicate that Oswald visited anyone at their Mexico City Embassy. If Lee Harvey Oswald DID visit the Soviet Embassy in Mexico City the Soviet government could have easily verified his presence by simply checking with their Embassy.


The mysterious 9 November 1963, letter sent to the Embassy of the Soviet Union, provoked feverish activity among some of the most important and potent decision makers in the 1960s. It remains to be determined how sincere were the perceptions and goals that drove these activities. Who, besides the leadership of the Soviet Union, concluded that this letter was a forgery and probably a provocation? Who, in the US government and its security agencies, agreed with this analysis? And did this analysis drive their actions?

And how did these decision makers deal with the patent inconsistencies and difficulties in pinning the authorship of this letter on to a lone isolate?

And who, when it was all said and done authored, typed and mailed this letter?

The answers to these questions will help frame sensible answers about the central murder mystery — who killed Kennedy, and why?


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