The Soviet Union and the Kingdom of Lesotho established diplomatic relations on 1 February 1980. The Soviet Ambassador to Mozambique was initially concurrently accredited to represent the Soviet Union's interests in Lesotho. Yuri Sepelev was appointed as the first Soviet ambassador to Lesotho, in concurrence with his posting to Maputo, on 24 April 1983, and presented his letter of credence to Basotho King Moshoeshoe II on 9 June 1983.
After a South African raid on Maseru on 9 December 1982, Lesotho began to build its relationships with the communist nations. After trips to the People's Republic of China and the Eastern Bloc in May 1983, Basotho Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan announced that China and the Soviet Union would be establishing embassies in the kingdom. The South African government responded angrily to the announcement, and reminded Jonathan of a promise he made in 1965 not to allow an embassy of any communist country in Lesotho so long as he was Prime Minister. Vincent Makhele, the Basotho Minister of Foreign Affairs, visited Moscow in September 1984 for discussions with officials in the Soviet government.
In a sign of increased KGB presence in Lesotho, staffing levels in the embassy in Maseru were increased, and in May 1985 the Soviets appointed their first resident Ambassador to Lesotho. In December 1985, Makhele returned to Moscow, and signed a cultural and scientific co-operation agreement, and a technical and economic agreement, with the Soviets. Soviet inroads in Lesotho suffered a setback when Jonathan was overthrown in January 1986 in a military coup which was led by Justin Lekhanya.
Russian Federation relations
On 24 January 1992, Lesotho recognised the Russian Federation as the successor state to the Soviet Union, after the latter's dissolution. The Russian embassy in Maseru was closed in August 1992, and thereafter the Russian Ambassador to South Africa has been concurrently accredited to Lesotho. Anatoly Makarov, the current Russian ambassador, presented his letters of credence to King Letsie III on 13 April 2007. Makase Nyaphisi, until 2012 the Basotho Ambassador to Russia (succeeded by Matlotliso Lineo Lydia Khechane-Ntoane) presented his credentials to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on 5 February 2010.
Since the beginning of the bilateral relationship with Lesotho, some 50 Basotho nationals have been educated in Soviet and Russian universities. Some of these graduates are employed in senior positions in the government of Lesotho, the most prominent of whom is Monyane Moleleki, the Basotho foreign minister, who graduated from Moscow State University. Since 1996, the Russian government provides to Lesotho, scholarships for three Basotho citizens to obtain basic higher education, and one scholarship for a Basotho citizen to study in graduate school.
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- Pascoe, III, William W. (21 July 1986). "Moscow's Strategy in Southern Africa: A Country by Country Review". Heritage Foundation. pp. 5–6. Archived from the original (PDF) on 31 August 2011. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- Посольство СССР в Лесото (in русский). Справочник по истории Коммунистической партии и Советского Союза 1898 - 1991. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
- Hanlon, Joseph (1986). "Lesotho: Bellowing from the Mountain-Top". Beggar your neighbours: apartheid power in Southern Africa. Indiana University Press. pp. 115–116. ISBN 0-85255-307-2. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- Vanneman, Peter (1990). "The Nonaligned States". Soviet strategy in Southern Africa: Gorbachev's pragmatic approach. 390. Hoover Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-8179-8901-3. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
- Российско-лесотские отношения (in русский). Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 17 February 2009. Archived from the original on 31 August 2011. Retrieved 2009-07-26.
- "Dmitry Medvedev received the letters of credence from eleven new ambassadors to the Russian Federation.". Grand Kremlin Palace, Moscow: President of Russia. 5 February 2010. Retrieved 25 February 2010.
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- (English) (Russian) Embassy of Russia in South Africa