'THE PRESS AT GENEVA'

The Times – 25 November 1985

Having attended the summit press sessions conducted by the Soviet spokesmen Leonid Zamyatin and Vladimir Lomeiko, I cannot agree with your correspondents (report, November 21) that either of them almost seemed "to relish questions on ... human rights".

Far from giving any "lengthy exposition of Soviet policy" on this subject, the Soviet spokesmen dismissed as "without substance" a question on the fate of Anatoly Shcharansky. They denounced as "unethical" a separate query about his wife's appeal on humanitarian grounds to Mrs Gorbachev at Geneva. They derided as an "historical lecture" a third journalist's suggestion that, if human rights questions had been raised at German press conferences in the 1930s, Soviet lives might have been saved.

"Not only I but others will understand why these questions have been raised," said Zamyatin, whose willingness to expatiate on Soviet "peace policy" in Afghanistan only made his refusal to address human rights more ominous.

The "disarming" of pressmen by the Soviets' "wry humour", which your correspondents report, seems to have been all too effective in their own case.

Dr JULIAN LEWIS
The Athenaeum
London SW1