Soviets to Allow 10 Citizens to Emigrate to U.S., Officials Say
WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Soviet government has decided to allow 10 citizens with spouses in the United States or other U.S. ties to leave the Soviet Union, the State Department said Friday.
The 10 included eight spouses of Americans, one with family members in the United States and another with dual U.S.-Soviet citizenship, State Department spokesman Bruce Ammerman said.
The development came four days before the start of President Reagan’s summit meeting in Geneva with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., who has been working as an advocate on Capitol Hill for about two dozen separated Soviet-American couples - so-called ″divided spouses″ - said he believed the Soviet decision was linked to the summit.
″I think it’s a public relations move but it is also an indication they want to improve the atmosphere″ at the summit, Simon said after being informed by the State Department of the decision.
A State Department official, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity, contrasted Friday’s news with the fact that in the last year and a half, only three Soviets in similar situations have been allowed to leave.
White House spokesman Edward Djerejian, asked about the reported Soviet decision, said, ″We have no comment on it.″
Simon aides identified the U.S.-Soviet citizen to be released as Abe Stolar, a native of Chicago who was taken by his family to the Soviet Union in 1931. Stolar, who later became an editor-translator for Radio Moscow, was 19 when he arrived in the Soviet Union.
David Carle, Simon’s press spokesman, said Stolar’s wife, Gita, and their son and daughter-in-law would be permitted to leave with Stolar. The family, which is Jewish, has tried repeatedly to emigrate.
One American affected by the Soviet decision is Woodford McClellan of Charlottesville, Va., whose wife, Irina, lives in Moscow. McClellan, a professor of Russian history at the University of Virginia, said he was told of the Soviet announcement by Michael Armacost, undersecretary of state for political affairs.
″It’s just like an enormous burden has been lifted,″ McClellan said in a telephone interview.
McClellan said he was not sure whether his step-daughter, Lena, also will be allowed to leave the Soviet Union. However, an Indiana-based human rights group, the Committee on Human Rights in the Soviet Union, said it had learned the 26-year-old woman would be allowed to leave.
Gedalyah Engel, spokesman for the organization, said his group had learned that Leta would be allowed to leave.
However, Beth Winebrenner, another official of the committee, said an earlier report from her group that Vladmir Prestin and Alexander Ioffi could emigrate was erroneous. She said neither Prestin nor Ioffi has ties to the United States.
Sandra Gubin of Kalamazoo, Mich., wife of Aleksai Lodisev, said she was told her husband is on the list of those to be released. Ms. Gubin has acted as spokeswoman for the divided spouses.
″I’m absolutely ecstatic and almost can’t believe it because it has been so long,″ Ms. Gubin said. ″I’m really, really thrilled for the nine of us who are very, very lucky ... I cried on the phone to an undersecretary of state.″
Ms. Gubin said she believed the upcoming summit prompted the Soviet reversal.
On Thursday, seven Americans with spouses or fiances in the Soviet Union, including Ms. Gubin, and one of their relatives made a public appeal to the Reagan administration to press their case in Geneva.
And last week, nearly 200 senators and representatives sent letters to Reagan and Gorbachev asking the two heads of state to strive to reunite the spouses.
The issue of human rights is on the agenda for the summit and Simon said Thursday he had been assured Reagan would raise the topic of divided spouses with Gorbachev.
Simon hailed Friday’s emigration announcement by the Soviets.
″Obviously, it’s good news,″ the senator remarked. ″We still have a ways to go but it’s much better news than we thought could happen this quickly.″