PARIS (Dec. 30)
Political observers here expressed guarded optimism today that the Soviet leadership may respond in some manner to France’s appeal for clemency for the Leningrad 11. France’s Ambassador to Moscow, Roger Seydoux, met with a “highly placed Soviet statesman” yesterday, to convey to the Soviet government “the intense emotion felt over the Leningrad trial, not only by French public opinion but also by the French government,” it was announced here today. The Russian statesman is believed to have been Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko. Ambassador Seydoux’ representations were reportedly made at the personal instructions of President Georges Pompidou. Circles here described this “diplomatic demarche” as “extraordinary,” particularly in view of the cordial relations between Paris and Moscow for the past few years. Pleas on behalf of the Leningrad defendants, coming from France, cannot easily be dismissed by the Kremlin leaders because France appears with “clean hands,” the sources said. French policy in the Mideast has been closer to Moscow’s than to the West’s.
The French press reported today however that the Soviet attitude on the Leningrad defendants seems to be “tougher and less compromising than ever.” But the same is not true of public opinion In the USSR, according to Le Monde. The paper noted that the Soviet press carried little information on the hijack trial but Jewish and non-Jewish circles in Russia appear to be well informed on the subject, apparently from listening to foreign radio broadcasts. Le Monde’s Moscow correspondent reported that many Soviet citizens deplore the Leningrad sentences and “any move tainted with anti-Semitism.” Moreover, they fail to understand why people who wish to leave Russia should be punished by death, Le Monde said. (In Switzerland, President Hans-Peter Tschudi said his administration “shares the dismay of our people and hopes that the appeals for clemency for the sentenced men and for the respect of human rights will be heard.”)