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59. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union/1/

Washington, April 20, 1961, 5:11 p.m.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 711.5261/4-2061. Secret; No Distribution Outside Department. Drafted by McSweeney and Boster (EUR/SOV); cleared with Bohlen, Chayes, and Kohler; and approved by Bowles.

1786. Eyes only Ambassador. Igor Melekh departed US April 7, due Bremen April 14, and should therefore be arriving Moscow anytime./2/

/2/Igor Y. Melekh had been arrested for espionage in October 1960.

You will recall (1) Soviet Embassy's informal approach to Department February 17 urging Melekh's release as gesture help improve relations; (2) Department's response March 3 that US Government prepared consider Melekh's early release on condition Soviet Government would release Powers; (3) Ambassador Menshikov's counter-response March 17 to Under Secretary expressing hope we would release Melekh without conditions, as they had released RB-47 fliers; (4) Under Secretary informed Menshikov March 23 of decision release Melekh as effort show good will and eliminate causes misunderstanding. (You should have all memoranda above conversations.)/3/

/3/A memorandum of Bowles' conversation with Menshikov on March 23 is in Department of State, Central Files, 611.61/3-2361. No memoranda of the other conversations have been found, but the Department of State transmitted brief summaries of the first two in telegram 1431 to Moscow, March 4. (Ibid., 711.6261/3-461)

While we clearly have no commitment for release of Powers, one interpretation of Soviet actions described above is that Soviet Government would be prepared respond favorably to request for release Powers as contribution to betterment relations if we were to have released Melekh unconditionally, and we were at least partially motivated by this interpretation in taking action as we did. You should therefore seek appointment at appropriate level in Foreign Ministry and recall these informal conversations re release of Melekh. You should indicate that, in light of Soviet approach, we took action to free Melekh unconditionally and that we are now hopeful that Soviet Government for its part will release Powers in similar step to help eliminate differences between us. Timing this approach left to your discretion, although we hope it can be made fairly soon./4/

/4/On May 4 Thompson reported that he had taken up the release of Powers with Gromyko who stated that the Melekh and Powers cases were entirely different and had nothing further to say about the matter. (Telegram 2711 from Moscow; ibid., 261.1111/Powers, Francis Gary)

Bowles

FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES - 1961-1963 - Volume V - Soviet Union P28

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