140. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

27780. Subject: Demarche to Soviet Embassy Regarding Hospitalization of Hunger-striking Pentecostalist.

1. (Confidential—entire text.)

2. The Acting Secretary telephoned Soviet Charge Bessmertnykh at 4:00 p.m. January 29 to convey the President’s concern that Lidiya Vashchenko be admitted to a Soviet hospital Saturday morning, January 30. The Acting Secretary explained the background of the case, noting that the latest word received by our Embassy in Moscow was that hospitalization would not be possible until Sunday or Monday. The Acting Secretary stressed our concern for Lidiya’s health and urged that all necessary arrangements be made for her hospitalization as the Embassy had requested. He also reiterated the Embassy’s request that the Embassy doctor and a consular officer accompany her to the hospital and be allowed to visit her frequently, and that she be allowed to return to the Embassy, if she wished, when her health permitted. [Page 480] Bessmertnykh said he was not informed on the matter but would relay our demarche to Moscow promptly.

3. Charge Bessmertnykh returned the Acting Secretary’s call on Saturday morning, January 30. Bessmertnykh said that he had cabled Moscow after talking to the Acting Secretary on Friday, and that “several messages” had been exchanged. Bessmertnykh noted the report of Lidiya’s hospitalization in Moscow,2 and expressed the hope that the Soviet action in the case would be considered as favorably responsive by the American side.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D820058–0760. Confidential. Priority. Sent for information to Leningrad. Drafted by van Laningham; cleared by Darbyshire, Combs, and Scanlan; approved by Stoessel.
  2. In telegram 1220 from Moscow, January 30, Zimmermann reported that at 11:55 a.m. Moscow time, a U.S. Embassy vehicle drove Lidia Vashchenko to Botkin Hospital in Moscow. She was escorted by a U.S. consular officer and the U.S. Embassy physician. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D820053–0493) Later that day, Reagan wrote in his diary: “The Soviets refused to send an ambulance for the Pentecostal Christian woman on hunger strike in our embassy. She is within hours of death unless she receives medical aid. I ordered her sent to hospital after Soviets refused to let us take her out of Moscow for help. We took her to Moscow hospital in embassy car.” (Brinkley, ed., The Reagan Diaries, Vol. I, pp. 105–106)