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Nation pg. A3
Long-secret documents recently handed to President Bill Clinton by Russian President Boris Yeltsin raise new questions about possible special treatment that top Soviet officials accorded Lee Harvey Oswald on his arrival in Moscow four years before President John F. Kennedy's assassination. The documents immediately generated fresh conspiracy claims from assassination theorists.
Within hours of Oswald's arrest as Kennedy's assassin in 1963, the documents also revealed, the Soviet ambassador to Washington sent a top-secret coded message to the Kremlin reporting "there is nothing that compromises us" in correspondence with Oswald and his wife. The ambassador said the Soviets might discuss this correspondence with the U.S. authorities "as a last resort." But there was no explanation of why the Soviets feared being compromised or why they would cooperate with the United States only as a last resort.
Oswald, Kennedy's accused assassin, arrived in Moscow from Finland as a tourist on Oct. 15, 1959, holding a six-day visa. He was an unknown former Marine not quite 20 years old. Yet, once he arrived, the documents show, memos about him circulated among top Soviet officials including a deputy premier, the foreign minister and the head of the KGB spy agency. The documents reveal that the officials approved plans to permit Oswald to stay in the Soviet Union for at least a year, to give him a job and an apartment, provide him with 5,000 rubles to furnish the apartment and 700 rubles a month in spending money.
Although some information about Oswald's defection to Moscow had previously been made available to American investigators, the level of early interest shown by high Soviet officials was not generally known. State Department officials, American intelligence sources and Russian officials say they have no ready explanation for that interest. "These events took place 35 to 40 years ago," one U.S. intelligence official said. "There aren't many people still around here, or in Russia, who remember the details."
Lem Johns, one of the Secret Service agents guarding Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas at the time of the assassination and later assistant Secret Service director in charge of protective operation, said he found the involvement of the foreign minister, deputy premier and KGB chief highly unusual. "People of that rank have a lot to worry about besides some kid tourist," he said. "They might have felt he threatened them in some way for them to show that much interest. What kind of threat did he pose? Or could there have been something else?"
Some conspiracy theorists suggested the "something else" might have been a plot by the Soviets to use Oswald in killing Kennedy. The Warren Commission and other U.S. agencies that have investigated the assassination said they found no evidence of Soviet involvement. But they apparently did not have access to all the Russian documents given to Clinton.
University of Maryland history professor, John Newman, the author of "Oswald and the CIA" and a consultant on the assassination film "JFK," called some of the Russian documents "highly significant." Until now, he said, he and other conspiracy theorists could only speculate on Soviet conclusions.
"Now we know their conclusions that a right-wing conspiracy was responsible for the assassination, that the U.S. government wanted to con-
Nation pg. A18
sign the case to oblivion, and that the plot was designed to make it look like Oswald was employed by the KGB," Newman said.
A parallel observation on Oswald's Soviet experience came from another conspiracy theorist, Debra Conway, who heads the JFK Lancer (his Service Service code name) assassination research organization.
"My opinion is that Oswald was there for some reason," Conway said in a telephone interview from her headquarters in Lake Forest, Calif. "There had to be some type of program. Oswald was a low-level operative for our government - or at least he thought so."
A State Department translation of one of the Russian language documents shows that on the day of the assassination, Nov. 22nd, 1963, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin sent a top-secret coded telegram marked "highest priority" from Washington to the Kremlin. It reported that Oswald had been arrested in the assassination and publicly identified as a former defector to the Soviet Union, "where he married Marina Nikolayevna Prusakova (b. 1941)."
The Oswald's moved to the United States in 1962, the message said. Marina Oswald applied in March, 1963, to return to the Soviet Union with their daughter, but not her husband. Dobrynin wrote that both Oswald and his wife had written Soviet officials about the request.
"The last letter from Lee Oswald was dated November 9," the coded message said. "It is possible that the U.S. authorities may ask us to familiarize them with the correspondence in our possession. The U.S. authorities are aware of the existence of this final correspondence since it was conducted through official mail. Inasmuch as there is nothing that compromises us in this correspondence, we might agree to do this as a last resort (after removing our internal correspondence with the MFA)." The MFA was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Numerous documents Yeltsin turned over the Clinton at a June summit meeting detail the high-level interest shown in Oswald upon his arrival in Moscow, where he renounced his American citizenship and asked for permanent residence. When Oswald reached Moscow, top-secret reports about him were sent to such officials as Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko, Deputy Premier Mikhal Porfirovich and KGB chief Aleksandr Nikolaevich Shelepin.
Gromyko and Shelepin recommended to the Soviet Communist Party's Central Committee: "It should be advisable to grant him the right of temporary sojourn in the USSR for one year and to provide him employment and housing. In such case, the question of Oswald's permanent residency in the Soviet Union and his receiving Soviet citizenship could be resolved upon the expiration of that period."
The Central Committee approved the recommendation, granting Oswald expense money, directing "the Byelorussian Economic Council to find employment for Oswald as an electrical and the Minsk City Council of Workers Deputies to assign him a separate small apartment." Oswald later was granted permission to stay indefinitely in the Soviet Union, but he returned to the United States after three years.
The 80 documents turned over by Yeltsin also included a top-secret draft resolution prepared by Gromyko for the Central Committee, purporting to "debunk" American news reports connecting the Soviet Union and Cuba to the assassination. The Central Committee approved the resolution and instructed Dobrynin to issue a terse report to American authorities "in the event they ask you about" Oswald's activities in the Soviet Union. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushehev sent his deputy, Annastas Mikoyan, to represent him at Kennedy's funeral. From Washington, Mikoyan sent a top-secret coded message to the Kremlin reporting on a private conversation with former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Llewellyn Thompson. He said Thompson told him Soviet press allegations that right-wingers were responsible for the assassination had brought American counter-assertions of "communist and Cuban connections."
The deputy premier said he told Thompson the Soviet Union did "not want to make complications" but resented such implications when the case had not even been fully investigated. Mikoyan said the U.S. government "clearly prefers to consign the whole business to oblivion as soon as possible."
Russia's JFK Documents Released
.c The Associated Press By DEB RIECHMANN
WASHINGTON (AP) - Nine days after President Kennedy was assassinated, his widow wrote to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that while the two leaders were adversaries, both were committed to peace, according to long-secret Russian documents released today by the National Archives.
``You and he were enemies, but you were also allies in your determination not to let the world be blown up,'' the late Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis wrote Dec. 1, 1963, on White House stationery. ``The danger troubling my husband was that war could be started not so much by major figures as by minor ones.''
The contents of the letter was included in more than 80 pages of KGB and Soviet diplomatic documents that Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave to President Clinton in June when the two were in Cologne, Germany.
``You respected each other and could have dealings with each other,'' Mrs. Kennedy wrote in her letter to Khrushchev. ``I know that President Johnson will make ever effort to establish the same relations with you.
``I am sending you this letter because I am so deeply mindful of the importance of the relations that existed between you and my husband and also because you and Mrs. Khrushchev were so kind in Vienna. I read that she had tears in her eyes as she was coming out of the American embassy in Moscow after signing the book of condolences. Please tell her `thank you' for this.''
Other documents released offer a previously unopened window into high-level discussions in the former Soviet Union following the president's murder Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas. They also contain material that Soviet officials gathered on Lee Harvey Oswald, Kennedy's assassin, when he lived in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962.
According to the documents, the Soviets drafted a statement three days after the assassination complaining that U.S. media reports about Oswald's communist connections were part of a disinformation campaign crafted by the ``real masterminds'' of the assassination to put the investigation on a ``false trail.''
The statement, drafted for publication in the government-controlled Soviet press, was written after Oswald was killed by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby, two days after the assassination. It is uncertain whether the statement was actually published.
``Now that Lee Harvey Oswald, accused of murdering the president, has himself been killed under mysterious circumstances, one can see even more clearly the absurdity and malice of the slanderous fabrications in certain organs of the American press, which are trying to establish Oswald's `connection' with either the Soviet Union or Cuba, using the fact that he spent some time in the Soviet Union as the basis for their insinuations,'' the statement said.
``Who does not realize that the physical destruction of Oswald is an additional link in the chain of crimes leading to the real masterminds of President Kennedy's assassination, who stop at nothing in their efforts to mislead the investigation and put it on a false trail?'' the statement read.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sunday, June 27, 1999
Debra Conway 949-699-2744
Doug Horne 202-488-6189
JFK OPEN-RECORD ADVOCATES CALL FOR FULL ACCESS TO YELTSIN DOCUMENTS
All Soviet files on the assassination of President Kennedy which were given by Russian President Yeltsin to President Clinton should be released in a timely manner to the National Archives, with any redactions or exclusions of documents held to a bare minimum, according to former Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) officials and a coalition of open-records advocates.
Former ARRB Chief Analyst for Military Records Doug Horne said that he was alarmed at press reports indicating that a U.S. interagency task force would be reviewing the documents before releasing anything to the public.
"These are Russian documents, not American-I cannot stress that enough-and it is the Russians who have already conducted a declassification review. If, as the U.S. Government has always claimed, Lee Harvey Oswald was NOT on an intelligence mission for the United States while in the Soviet Union from 1959-1962, then there should be absolutely no reason for U.S. officials to have to "declassify" these records."
Federal judge John Tunheim, former ARRB Chair, was quoted by CNN as saying that while he was pleased the Russians apparently had released some of the documents the ARRB had requested, he hoped that they would be released publicly "in the next several months." But National Security Council (NSC) Spokesman David Leavy, according to the Associated Press, refused to estimate how long the documents would be under review by the interagency panel.
"A private research group, the National Security Archive, also supported a timely and complete release of the materials, which Yelstin provided to Clinton in Cologne, Germany on June 20 as a goodwill gesture, and expressed concern about the interagency panel, which is said to include CIA, State Department, Defense Department, and NSC officials.
``This procedure they are talking about is very troubling to us,'' Kate Martin, a lawyer for the research group, told the Associated Press. ``It's very hard to imagine any real national security considerations for withholding these documents from the American public.''
Lancer Independent News Exchange spokesman Chris Courtwright said that confusion over the legal status of the Yeltsin files and other JFK materials needed to be clarified in the wake of the ARRB's sunset on September 30, 1998. He said that questions about the declassification procedures began immediately after US National Security Adviser Sandy Berger announced to the media in Cologne that "all interesting elements" of the Yeltsin release would be made public after the review.
"With all due respect to Mr. Berger, the law requires that everything which does not otherwise qualify for an exemption pursuant to the JFK Act is to be released - whether he or anyone else finds it °interesting' or not," said Courtwright.
"Moreover, this begs the question of who would decide on the validity of an exemption claim under that law if the CIA or another agency wants to have certain documents redacted or totally withheld," he said. "The ARRB filled that role through last September, and they strongly recommended in their Final Report to President Clinton that action be taken to assure that the National Archives, in conjunction with a professional oversight group with historical, legal, and archival expertise, would have inherited many of the ARRB's powers, duties, and functions."
agency wants to have certain documents redacted or totally withheld"
- Chris Courtwright
Courtwright said that he believed transitional legislation may be necessary to implement the ARRB recommendations and clarify that the National Archives and the professional oversight group could continue to administer the ongoing provisions of the JFK Act.
"I have been in touch with Amy Krupsky at the National Archives, and she tells me that another interesting question the legal staff has been pondering is whether they have subpoena powers like the ARRB did," Courtwright said.
He also said that the declassification issues which had arisen as a result of Yeltsin's goodwill gesture were likely to continue to arise as additional JFK assassination-related materials surface over the years.
"The ARRB said that the Mexican government may well have additional records which they refused to release to the U.S. State Department," he said, "and that J. Edgar Hoover may have had additional records which could not be located during ARRB's tenure."
Former ARRB Supervisory Analyst Horne agreed, and reiterated his belief that the assembly of the interagency declassification team to review the Yeltsin materials was "extremely arrogant behavior" and "totally contrary" to the spirit of the JFK Act.
"Since these are not U.S. government documents, the White House should have turned them over immediately to the JFK Collection at the National Archives," Horne said. "The American people deserve to know, 36 years after the fact, what the internal Soviet reaction was to President Kennedy's assassination, and what conclusions they may have reached, or what suspicions they may have held, about JFK's assassination between 1963 and the present time. There is no valid argument or acceptable reason to withhold such information from the public in this country."
Lancer Independent News Exchange is a media alert service. LINE was established to focus press and public attention on emerging truths in the John F. Kennedy assassination case and other related subjects.
Oswald Files May Have Nothing New
.c The Associated Press
By ANGELA CHARLTON
MOSCOW (AP) - The U.S. government has known since the 1960s nearly everything
the KGB knew about Lee Harvey Oswald's time in the Soviet Union, and Soviet
files recently turned over to the United States are unlikely to contain any
surprises, according to a former KGB colonel.
Alexander Feklisov was a KGB representative in Washington when President
Kennedy was shot in 1963. In an interview broadcast on Russia's NTV
television Sunday, Feklisov said he collected KGB documents on Oswald
immediately after he was linked to the killing.
``We photographed the documents, there were no Xerox machines back then, and
gave the (photos) to the State Department,'' Feklisov said. ``As far as I
know, the State Department never reacted to our correspondence.''
Oswald, the man the Warren Commission identified as the gunman who killed
Kennedy, lived in the Soviet Union from 1959 to 1962.
Russian President Boris Yeltsin gave President Clinton a surprise gift at a
summit earlier this month: some 85 declassified papers containing information
gathered by Soviet intelligence agencies about Oswald.
NTV showed three of the documents Sunday: a handwritten letter Oswald sent to
Soviet authorities seeking asylum in 1959, a discussion of the Soviet
reaction to the assassination, and an announcement about which Soviet leaders
would attend the Kennedy funeral.
Some assassination researchers have said the files could provide a monumental
breakthrough, though their full contents haven't been made public.
But Feklisov said the files were unlikely to show anything crucial that he
didn't mention in his initial report to the State Department.
``I'm surprised that the Americans asked for more documents,'' he told NTV.
To find the culprit for the ``crime of the century,'' he said, Americans
would be better off looking ``inside themselves.''
Since the KGB declassified the Oswald files after the 1991 Soviet collapse,
Russian officials have said the documents shed no new light on the
assassination. They insist the Soviets had little interest in Oswald; the KGB
deemed him mentally unstable and refused his asylum request.
Former KGB general Oleg Nechiporenko told NTV that the Soviets didn't want to
grant him asylum, so they let him into the country on a temporary basis. But
instead of allowing him in Moscow, they sent him to Minsk, Belarus,
The KGB amassed a six-volume file on Oswald's activities in Minsk. It was
sent to Moscow after the assassination but returned to Minsk after the
breakup of the Soviet Union.
The Russian media has painted Yeltsin's handover of the documents as little
more than a symbolic friendship gesture after weeks of hostility over NATO's
bombing of Yugoslavia.
The White House is setting up an interagency review to handle the files.
Oswald letter among papers turned over
THE WASHINGTON POST
MOSCOW -- The documents that President Boris Yeltsin turned over to President
Clinton on the assassination of President Kennedy include the handwritten
letter Lee Harvey Oswald sent to Soviet authorities seeking asylum in 1959.
The documents also include material gathered about Oswald by Soviet
authorities while he lived in Minsk, as well as records of high-level
reaction to the Kennedy assassination in which Soviet officials expressed
fears that Moscow would be blamed, experts said.
At the summit in Cologne, Germany, on Sunday, Yeltsin unexpectedly turned
over to Clinton about 80 pages of material from Russian archives concerning
Historians have expressed hope that the documents could shed light on whether
Oswald schemed to kill Kennedy when he lived in the Soviet Union from 1959 to
1962. The White House has promised the documents will be made public
eventually. A group of researchers tried to obtain the documents in 1996, but
they were refused.
Maxim Zhukov, a reporter for the newspaper Kommersant, obtained three of the
documents and published them Tuesday. They were Oswald's letter, a Foreign
Ministry document discussing Soviet reaction to the assassination, and a
document describing plans for attendance at the Kennedy funeral.
Vladimir Sokolov, a Russian Foreign Ministry archivist familiar with the
documents, said in a television interview that they included secret cables,
among them the first one sent by Anatoly Dobrynin, the longtime Soviet
ambassador to Washington, at the time of the assassination. Sokolov said all
the materials went directly to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
"The 80 pages can be divided into two parts," Zhukov said. "One, about the
time Oswald spent here; the other, Soviet documents about official reaction
to the killing of Kennedy." He said the documents also might include
"stenograms (transcripts) of meetings with Oswald." Oswald, a former Marine,
defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and renounced his American citizenship.
Sokolov said the documents showed Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko was
reluctant to grant Soviet citizenship to Oswald, "giving the argument that
judging by the first acquaintance with him, so to speak, he is an unbalanced
man, and so on. After he got a rejection, he cut his wrists." "To the Surprem
(sic) Soviet of the USSR," Oswald wrote in the single-page handwritten letter
on Oct. 16, 1959, while on a visit to Moscow. "I Lee Harvey Oswald, request
that I be granted citizenship in the Soviet Union....
"I want citizenship because I am a Communist and a worker. I have lived in a
decadent capitalist society where the workers are slaves. I am 20 years old.
I have completed three years in the United States Marine Corps. I seved (sic)
with the occupation forces in Japan, I have seen American military
imperialism in all its forms." Oswald said he did not want to return to "any
country outside of the Soviet Union" and was willing to relinquish his U.S.
citizenship. He said he saved up his money to come to Moscow but did not have
enough for a return. The envelope was marked, "Moscow, Hotel Berlin, Room
320, Lee Harvey Oswald." Oswald later lived in the Belarus capital city,
Minsk, where he was under KGB surveillance. In 1962, disenchanted, Oswald and
his wife, Marina, returned to the United States and settled in Dallas. Oswald
was slain by Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby two days after the Kennedy
assassination. The Warren Commission later concluded Oswald acted alone, a
conclusion that has long been disputed.
A second document made public Tuesday is dated Nov. 26, 1963, just after the
assassination. Gromyko proposed issuing instructions to the Soviet press to
denounce reports in the United States that Oswald was somehow linked to the
Oswald's Russian Files To Be Opened
.c The Associated Press
By KAREN GULLO
WASHINGTON (AP) - Intelligence and defense agencies will review KGB files on
Lee Harvey Oswald that may detail Russia's own investigation of Oswald's role
in the assassination of President Kennedy.
Officials said today there is no estimate when the public might see the
material. The uncertainty over timely access to the information troubles some
advocates of public access to government documents.
The documents - a surprise gift from Boris Yeltsin to President Clinton -
will first be reviewed for material sensitive to national security concerns,
while also taking into account privacy considerations.
The interagency review set up by the White House will consist of officials
from the CIA, the National Security Council and the State and Defense
Departments, said David Leavy, NSC spokesman.
Kate Martin, a lawyer for the National Security Archive, a private research
group and library, believes the papers should go to the National Archives,
which oversees assassination records and makes them publicly available.
``This procedure they are talking about is very troubling to us,'' she said.
``It's very hard to imagine any real national security considerations for
withholding these documents from the American public.''
Leavy said the White House expects ultimately to make the documents public.
``Our approach would be to declassify and make public as much as possible,''
he said. He could not specify how long it would take.
About 85 papers, all in Russian, were turned over by Yeltsin on Sunday when
he met with Clinton during the Group of Eight summit.
Oswald, a former Marine, defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and renounced
his American citizenship. That attracted the attention of the KGB, which
bugged his apartment in the Belarus capital city of Minsk, paid neighbors to
inform on him and kept Oswald and his Russian wife Marina under constant
The KGB amassed a six-volume file on Oswald's activities in Minsk. It was
sent to Moscow after the assassination but returned to Minsk after the
breakup of the Soviet Union.
The documents handed over by Yeltsin are thought to be the KGB files
compiled in Moscow, said John Tunheim, former chairman of the
government's Assassination Records Review Board.
The board, which went out of business last year, was created to locate,
gather and eventually make public all known assassination records.
Tunheim said the documents could shed light on what the KGB knew about Oswald
and how top-ranking Soviet officials reacted when they learned that Oswald
was the suspected gunman.
``The KGB had sophisticated intelligence at the time. They could have
uncovered facts that we didn't get,'' said Tunheim, who was a member of a
board delegation that tried but failed to get the documents from Russia in
A Russian newspaper published three documents from the files on Wednesday,
the Washington Post reported. One was a handwritten letter Oswald sent to
Soviet authorities seeking asylum in 1959. Another discussed the Soviet
reaction to the assassination and the third described plans for attendance at
the Kennedy funeral.
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