The Soviet Union, steadfastly ignoring Western accusations of connivance in the invasion of Zaire's Shaba Province, yesterday declared that the Kolwezi rescue mission shows that "the Western powers do not give up armed interference in the internal affairs of the African countries."
In a leading article in Pravda, the party newspaper, the Kremlin declared that the rescue of European residents of Kolwezi by the Belgian and French governments is "a direct intervention in the name of their selfish interests."
The article was ostensibly published to mark African Solidarity Day here, but its tone and perspective reiterated the leadership's characterization of the Zaire paratroop drops and rescue of the troops of President Mobutu Sese Seko as a U.S. backed maneuver against African patriots.
Initially, the Kremlin tagged the United States as the principal engineer of a plot to deny Shaba patriots the fruits of their patriotism, Kolwezi. Then it called the rescue operation a plot hatched by NATO countries in what was said to be the new role of "gendarme of the world."
Thursday, the official Soviet news agency Tass went so far as to accuse Belgain and French troops in Zaire of deliberately massacring whites there in order to put the blame on rebels.
"After coming to the aid of the unpopular regime," declared Tass, "French Legionnaires and Belgain soldiers staged a real massacre in Kolwezi and other towns of Shaba so as to blame the rebels for the mass murder of whites." In addition, Tass said, "Many Belgian specialists were turned over by their rescuers to representatives of the Zaire arms and died at the hands of the Mobutu soldiers."
One Western diplomat, when he read this dispatch, threw his hands up in exasperation and said, "they're in cloud-cuckoo land."
According to one informed observer, the Soviet propaganda is aimed at tagging the United States and its allies with the same label the Western nations tried to pin on the Kremlin in Ethiopia: that of great power meddler using mercenary "surrogates" to do its dirty work.
"They try to paint the Belgians and French with the same brush that painted the Cubans in Ethiopia," said one source. "They are trying to give it right back to the Americans. As for Mobutu's charge that the Shaba rebels get Soviet backing, they handle that by playing up the interventionist role of France and Belgium using U.S. planes, and try to dismiss the Mobutu charge by saying it's ridiculous."
This source added that the stridency of the Soviet propaganda line with regard to the latest African episode "seems to be part of their overall thrillness on a variety of subjects."