Watch CBSN Live

Soviet JFK Papers Released

In public, the Russians joined foreign dignitaries in mourning the death of President Kennedy 35 years ago. But in private, reports CBS News Correspondent Phil Jones, they feared being blamed for the assassination. The new information comes from 80 pages of classified Russian documents Boris Yeltsin presented to President Clinton last June.

The papers, being released by National Archives, shed light on what went on in Russia right after the Kennedy assassination.

They are just a fraction of the six volumes of Soviet records on assassin Lee Harvey Oswald that a federal panel had tried, but failed, to obtain in 1996.

The documents show Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko was deeply involved in drafting a rebuttal to what he called "slanderous fabrications regarding some soviet and Cuban connections of lee Harvey Oswald." There was good reason for the Russians to be worried about appearances. The Kremlin had in their possession a hand written letter from Oswald's asking for Soviet citizenship.

Lee Harvey Oswald
"I want citizenship because I am a communist and a worker," Oswald wrote. " I have lived in a decadent capitalist society where the workers are slaves." The documents reveal why the Russians blocked a New York Times reporter from visiting Minsk where Oswald had worked. The KGB concluded the visit "would add new fuel to the controversy surrounding Oswald and his stay in the USSR."

Oswald had defected to the Soviet Union in 1959 and renounced his American citizenship. The move attracted the attention of the KGB, which bugged his apartment and kept Oswald and his Russian wife Marina under constant surveillance. Oswald returned to the United States in 1962, settling in Dallas with his wife and baby daughter. President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas approximately one year later on November 22, 1963.

In a top secret dispatch from Washington to Moscow, deputy chairman Anastas Mikoyan referred to anti-Soviet hysteria, but he concluded, "The U.S. government does not want to involve us in this matter, it clearly prefers to consign the whole business to oblivion as soon as possible."

The papers show that just days after Kennedy was murdered, his widow Jackie appealed to Soviet leaders to continue peaceful relations with the United States. They reveal conversations she has with diplomats and a personal, hand written note to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

"Dear Mr. Chairman-president," she wrote, "On one of the last nights I will spend in the White House, in one of the last letters I will write on this White House stationery, I would like to write my message to you. You and [my husband] were adversaries, but yu were also allies in your determination not to let the world be blown up."

It was a private plea for peace, unknown to anyone else in the U.S. government, including the new president.

View CBS News In