Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko says the CIA helped the KGB clamp down on Soviet dissidents in 1966 in order to avert world attention from the U.S. bombing of Vietnam.

In an article published Saturday by the weekly Ogonyok, Yevtushenko recounts how Senator Robert Kennedy told him that the U.S. intelligence service had given its Soviet rival the pseudonyms of dissident writers Yuli Daniel and Andrei Sinyavsky.Both writers were prosecuted with the CIA evidence, and their long prison sentences touched off a storm of protest in the West. Several other Soviet dissidents, including Alexander Ginzburg and Vladimir Bukovsky, were also arrested and convicted.

Yevtushenko learned of the alleged CIA involvement when he was invited to the senator's New York headquarters during a visit to the United States in November 1966.

"I spent several hours with Robert Kennedy," Yevtushenko said. "During the talks, he took me to the bathroom, and, turning on the shower, he told me in confidence that the pseudonyms of Daniel and Sinyavsky had been disclosed to the KGB by the American secret services.

"At first I did not understand why," he added. "Robert Kennedy smiled ironically and said that it had been a rather advantageous and propagandistic move.

"(He said) it pushed the topic of the bombing of North Vietnam into the background and put the persecution of Soviet intellectuals into the foreground."

Yevtushenko said he had asked Kennedy for permission to tell the Soviet government about the undercover cooperation between the two intelligence services. He was told he could do so only if he did not reveal his source.

He then went to the Soviet mission in New York and an official there agreed to help him send a coded telegram.

Later, Yevtushenko was picked up by "two strangers" who took him back to the mission and tried in vain to make him reveal his source and name the Soviet official who had helped him.

Kennedy was shot dead in June 1968 at a Los Angeles hotel. Yuli Daniel, who served five years in a labor camp, died in the Soviet Union last December.