Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on the Soviet situation, made in an interview held in London on Tuesday 20th August 1991.
[Mr Major was asked if he had been able to reassure Boris Yeltsin that he had British support].
I was certainly able to reassure Mr Yeltsin of our support for the reform programme in the Soviet Union, that has been strong and remains strong, it is only by implementing a reform programme that the Soviet Union will improve its own condition and sustain its position I think over the years in the world community. So that was the first assurance I was able to give him.
[Mr Major was asked what support he had been asked to give by Mr Yeltsin].
He was very keen firstly that we should ask the leaders of the coup to release President Gorbachev, he made it clear that President Gorbachev was not ill, had recently been examined by a doctor, was still being held in the Crimea but remained the legally appointed President of the Soviet Union and that he should be freed, that was the first point he made. I undertook to ensure to him that that was the British Government’s position and we would make that clear to the leaders of the coup in the Soviet Union. He asked also that there should be an independent examination of President Gorbachev’s health, I undertook to demand that also. He thirdly asked that we should require direct communications between President Gorbachev and President Bush in Washington and myself in London. I undertook to make those requirements as well and we will be passing those demands on to the Soviet Ambassador within minutes.