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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin JFK Files Show Widow as Diplomat




WASHINGTON -- Just days after her husband's assassination, Jacqueline Kennedy made private pleas to Soviet leaders to maintain peaceful U.S. relations while then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk conducted his own diplomatic efforts, long-secret Russian documents show.


Mrs. Kennedy's overtures included a handwritten letter to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev that pleaded for "continuation of self-control and restraint" in Cold War relations strained during her husband's presidency by the Cuban missile crisis and the Bay of Pigs, the documents state.


The contents of the KGB and Soviet diplomatic documents, which President Boris Yeltsin provided to President Bill Clinton a few months ago, were described to The Associated Press by a senior Clinton administration official familiar with them.


They were expected to become public later this week at the National Archives.


The U.S. experts who translated and reviewed the documents have informed Clinton that they shed little light on the November 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but provide new details about the reactions of the Soviets and his widow, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


Experts said the revelation of Mrs. Kennedy's efforts was significant since high-level U.S. officials, including Kennedy's successor in the White House, Lyndon B. Johnson, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, were concerned in the immediate days after the assassination that killer Lee Harvey Oswald may have been connected to the Soviets.


Those concerns included CIA information about a meeting Oswald had with a top KGB official in Mexico City just weeks before the killing. The administration official said it was unclear how many of the KGB files were actually turned over.


"I find it interesting that Jacqueline Kennedy was trying to smooth the waters," said John Newman, a former military intelligence officer and University of Maryland history professor who has written books on Kennedy and Oswald.


"It makes me wonder if she wasn't aware of these concerns and was using her good auspices to try to allay these concerns," Newman said. The administration official said the documents detail the Soviets' fascination with the intense U.S. media coverage of the assassination, and express chagrin at news reports linking Oswald to "leftist" elements and Soviet agencies.


The KGB denounced American media reports suggesting Soviet complicity in Kennedy's death as "slander" and suggested that they only served to hide "who is really behind the assassination," the official quoted the documents as saying.


The documents portray Oswald's efforts prior to the assassination to gain Soviet citizenship as adamant and denote clearly that the KGB opposed his request for asylum, the official said.


Diplomatic memos and notes also show that the Soviets - media reports aside - were pleased by high-level U.S. contacts immediately after the assassination that left them confident the shooting in Dallas wouldn't harm U.S. relations, the official said.


The documents indicate that Rusk quickly engaged in conversations with Soviet diplomats, talking about a wide range of issues that included the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, possible arms deals and a proposed U.S.-Moscow air route, the official said.


The Soviets described the contacts as a sign that it would be "business as usual" with the United States, the official said.


Though less official, Mrs. Kennedy's overtures were also duly noted. The presidential widow approached two Soviet officials attending her husband's funeral reception at the White House to "reiterate her husband's desire for peace" and to encourage them to find ways to "continue this endeavor and bring it to completion," the official quoted the Russian documents as saying.


About a week after the assassination, the documents indicate that Mrs. Kennedy followed up with the handwritten letter to Khrushchev, the official said.


//BLOB//


A divided federal arbitration panel announced in Washington on Tuesday that the U.S. government must pay the heirs of Abraham Zapruder $16 million for his film of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, The New York Times reported.


The award was about halfway between the $30 million sought by the Zapruder family and the $1 million offered by the Justice Department as compensation for the two-meter long strip of film that experts said was too fragile to safely run through a projector. The award, the highest price ever paid for a historical, American artifact, cannot be appealed.


The government acquired Zapruder's 26-second film last year under a federal law that requires all records of the Kennedy assassination to be transferred to the National Archives for preservation, research and other noncommercial purposes. The government had acknowledged that the Zapruder family was entitled to a fair reimbursement as owners of private property taken by the government for public use.


Zapruder, a Dallas, Texas dress manufacturer, died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 66.


On Tuesday, two of the panel's three members wrote in their majority decision that the film made by Zapruder, as the Kennedy motorcade rolled through Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963, was "a unique historical item of unprecedented worth." A third member of the panel dissented, saying the price set by the majority "was simply too large an amount in light of the evidence in the record."


The majority decision concluded that the film's worth was further enhanced by the soaring prices commanded for Kennedy historical memorabilia in recent years, like the Louis XVI desk on which Kennedy signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which sold at auction in 1996 for $1.4 million.