MOSCOW -- A new book published by the Soviet Union claims the 1978 Jonestown massacre was carried out by the CIA to prevent members of the People's Temple cult from moving to the Soviet Union.
The book, 'A Drama in Jonestown -- a CIA Crime,' says members of the cult led by Jim Jones contacted Soviet Embassy officials in the South American republic of Guyana just prior to the mass suicide that left 918 people dead.
Cult members had received permission to visit the Soviet Union to investigate the possibility of establishing their commune there, the book said.
Most victims died by drinking a cyanide-laced grape-flavored drink.
The book, published by the Yuridicheskaya Literatura publishing house run by the Ministry of Justice, said Jones, who reportedly committed suicide with a pistol the day of the massacre, actually was assassinated by CIA agents who infiltrated the cult.
Attacks on the CIA and claims of its involvement in murders, coups and other crimes are common in theSoviet media.
Excerpts and a review of the book, which has the official sanction of the Kremlin, were printed in Friday editions of the evening Izvestia newspaper.
The book said Jones and other People's Temple representatives had close contact with the Soviet Embassy before the tragedy. One victim, identified as Sharon Amos, telephoned the embassy in Georgetown, the capital, during the massacre to plead for help, the book states.
'The murder of 918 citizens of the United States, members of the People's Temple organization on the territory of the Republic of Guyana on Nov. 18, 1978, was the handiwork of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency,' the book said, claiming to 'refute the version about mass suicide of religious fanatics'.
In its review, Izvestia called the cult's followers 'impoverished Americans, victims of political reprisals and terror.'
The book says the visit to the Soviet Union was set to take place in late November or early December of 1978. Jones was an avid admirer of Soviet-style communism and used socialist techniques to run his commune in the jungle.
'Officials of the U.S. Embassy, as well as CIA agents posing as diplomats, constantly monitored the acitvity of the Peoples Temple. They supervised the operation for sending agents of the U.S. Secret Service to Jonestown and took an immediate part in preparing an operation for the elimination of 'political dissidents,'' Izvestia said.
It said a special 'seizure squad' moved in and shot Jones, then administered a 'sedative' of cyanide mixed with Kool-aid to kill his remaining followers. Those that refused to drink were shot, the book said.
The book claims the U.S. Army was involved in a coverup by destroying evidence after it sealed off the area, and accuses Washington and the U.S. news media of covering up the CIA's involvement in the affair.
The Izvestia review made little mention of Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif., who was murdered by Jones' followers in Guyana after visiting the commune -- a move that triggered the mass suicide and massacre.