90MOSCOW5204, MUTED SOVIET REACTION TO MANDELA’S RELEASE

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
90MOSCOW5204 1990-02-13 16:26 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

R 131626Z FEB 90
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 6874
INFO/RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 1186
AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN
AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG
AMCONSUL DURBAN
AMEMBASSY HARARE

C O N F I D E N T I A L MOSCOW 05204 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:OADR 
TAGS: PREL UR SF
SUBJECT:  MUTED SOVIET REACTION TO MANDELA'S RELEASE 
 
1.    CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.    FOR ALL THE ATTENTION THE SOVIET MEDIA HAVE 
PAID TO NELSON MANDELA'S RELEASE FEBRUARY 12, HE 
MIGHT AS WELL STILL BE IN PRISON.  "SEVEN DAYS", THE 
USSR'S MAJOR SUNDAY EVENING NEWS AND WEEK-IN-REVIEW 
PROGRAM, DEVOTED ALL OF THIRTY SECONDS TO THE EVENT, 
AND BURIED IT SOME FORTY MINUTES INTO THE PROGRAM -- 
AFTER SUCH HIGHLIGHTS AS UPCOMING LOCAL ELECTIONS IN 
SVERDLOVSK.  "PRAVDA" (FEB. 12) LIKEWISE DEVOTED 
SCANT COVERAGE TO THE RELEASE, AND CARRIED ONLY A BIO 
SKETCH OF MANDELA, NEXT TO THE FAMILIAR 27-YEAR OLD 
PHOTO OF THE ANC LEADER WHEN HE WAS JAILED. 
 
3.    AT A PRESS CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW FEBRUARY 12, 
FIRST DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER YULIY VORONTSOV WAS 
ASKED ABOUT MANDELA'S RELEASE AND WHETHER THIS WOULD 
PROMPT THE USSR TO RESTORE DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH 
SOUTH AFRICA.  VORONTSOV RESPONDED THAT THE SOVIET 
UNION WELCOMED MANDELA'S RELEASE BY THE SAG.  "IT 
WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER IF HE HAD NOT BEEN IMPRISONED 
FOR 27 YEARS," VORONTSOV SAID IN THE ONLY FORCEFUL 
COMMENT WE HAVE HEARD ON THIS SUBJECT.  MANDELA'S 
RELEASE DID NOT YET MEAN THE SAG HAD DISMANTLED 
APARTHEID, HOWEVER.  UNTIL THIS OCCURRED, THE WHOLE 
CIVILIZED WORLD -- INCLUDING THE USSR -- WOULD REFUSE 
TO HAVE NORMAL RELATIONS WITH SOUTH AFRICA, VORONTSOV 
SAID. 
 
4.  THE SINCERITY OF VORONTSOV'S COMMENTS WAS 
UNDERMINED BY THE FACT THAT THE QUESTION WAS 
OBVIOUSLY "PLANTED."  THE PRESS CONFERENCE HAD BEEN 
CALLED TO DISCUSS AN ENTIRELY SEPARATE SUBJECT 
RELATING TO THE MIDDLE EAST.  THE PERSON WHO ASKED 
THE QUESTION -- RADIO MOSCOW AFRICA SERVICE OFFICIAL 
ALEKSEY BATOGOV -- WAS CLEARLY BEWILDERED BY HIS 
PRESENCE THERE AND EVEN ASKED AN EMBOFF IN ATTENDANCE 
WHAT THE PROCEDURE WAS FOR POSING QUESTIONS. 
 
5.  IF THIS RELATIVE LACK OF ATTENTION TO AN 
HISTORIC EVENT HAS SURPRISED US, IT HAS NO DOUBT 
INFURIATED SOME AFRICAN DIPLOMATS.  NEVERTHELESS, 
THIS TREATMENT CONFIRMS THE LOW PRIORITY WHICH 
AFRICAN AFFAIRS OCCUPIES IN A SOVIET SOCIETY WHICH IS 
ABSORBED IN DOMESTIC ISSUES.  MATLOCK 
 
 
NNNN

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