Son Ends Hunger Strike Marking Parents Efforts To Leave Soviet Union With AM-Soviet Jews Bjt
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Alexander Slepak, son of prominent Jewish dissidents in the Soviet Union, ended a 17-day fast Sunday with a plea for his parents’ freedom echoed by former United Nations ambassador Jeane J. Kirkpatrick and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.
Slepak, a 35-year-old medical student at Temple University in Philadelphia, said he finishes the hunger strike - one day for each year since his parents first applied for permission to emigrate - dizzy, weak and about 20 pounds lighter.
Vladimir Slepak, 60, and his wife, Maria, have been staging silent protests in front of the Russian Federation Building, which houses the government of the largest of the Soviet Union’s 15 republics. On Saturday, they were seized by uniformed militiamen, shoved inside a jeep and driven home.
″Is that glastnost? Is that the openness? Is this the real sign that my parents will soon be free according to all civilized norms. ... Or have we just lifted the mask and seen the real Gorbachev and real government there?″ the younger Slepak asked at a rally on the steps of the Capitol.
The Slepaks are among the refuseniks - Jews who have been denied permission to emigrate - invited to a Passover dinner Monday at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow with Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
The elder Slepak, who also started a fast March 27 and ended it Sunday, said in a telephone interview that a police guard stayed a few hours outside his home on Saturday and then left. He said he plans to attend the dinner with Shultz, who arrives Monday for a three-day official visit with Soviet leader Mikhail Gobachev and Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
Slepak, now a Hebrew teacher, has been told his visa has been denied because of his work with classified information as an electronics engineer between 1957 and 1969. But his supporters say his work has long been out of date.
Noting Gorbachev’s push for democratization, Alexander Slepak said, ″I want (Soviet authorities) to show that while they’re talking about freedom and possible changes, we want the deeds and not the rhetoric. ... My parents are 60 years old. When they applied, they were 43. That’s cruelty; that’s not change.″
Kirkpatrick, ambassador to the United Nations during President Reagan’s first term, said Americans should look to the Soviet Union’s treatment of its own citizens as an indication of its sincerity on arms control and international peace.
″If (the Soviet government) uses its own great force against its own citizens ... how can we possibly expect that it will not use that force against any people, any country, weaker than it?″ she asked.
″No person concerned with arms control, with international peace, can be unconcerned at the violation by a government of its own promises ... to protect its own people,″ she said.
Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and writer, making his remarks in the form of an entreaty to Gorbachev, said: ″I very much want to believe that your interest in peace is genuine, that your project of democratization is profoundly felt. ... However, as long as Vladimir and Maria Slepak are being harassed ... psychologically tormented, I cannot believe in you.″