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Newspaper Says Sakharov Letters Detail Ill Treatment by KGB

February 9, 1986

LONDON (AP) _ A British newspaper said Sunday it has obtained letters from dissident Soviet physicist Andrei D. Sakharov that detail his alleged torture and torment at the hands of the KGB secret police.

In Newton, Mass., Sakharov’s son-in-law, Yefrem Yankelevich, confirmed to The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he had provided the Observer newspaper with the letters.

″There were some financial arrangements, but I won’t be able to discuss it,″ Yankelevich said late Saturday.

Yankelevich said the letters reached him and his wife, Tatiana Yankelevich, who is Sakharov’s stepdaughter, but declined to disclose their contents or how they left the Soviet Union.

The Observer quoted him as saying that the documents recently arrived at the Yankelevichs’ Newton home in two plain envelopes mailed from an unspecified Western country.

″How they got out of the Soviet Union I cannot say, but I know the source and the source is reliable,″ the Observer quoted Yankelevich as saying.

The letters ″contain one of the most vivid testimonies of human suffering ever to have emerged in the Soviet Union,″ the London newspaper said.

The Observer said the letters detail Sakharov’s alleged ill treatment by the KGB, the Soviet secret police. It said they confirm reports that Sakharov was force-fed during while on a hunger strike and subjected to mental torture and physical violence while being treated at a hospital in Gorky, the closed Soviet city where he is now in internal exile.

The Observer said the documents also include photographs that show Sakharov looking tired and haggard compared to recent pictures of him released by Soviet authorities.

Yankelevich told the AP the pictures of Sakharov did not come with the letters, but were brought by his mother-in-law, Yelena Bonner, 65, who left the Soviet Union late last year to come the West for medical treatment.

Mrs. Bonner, mother of Yankelevich’s wife, Tatiana, is currently recovering at their Newton home from the heart bypass surgery she underwent three weeks ago in Boston.

The newspaper printed one of Sakharov’s photographs Sunday, and said it would begin publishing extracts of the documents next Sunday.

Sakharov, 64, who led the effort to produce the Soviet hydrogen bomb, was exiled in January 1980 to Gorky, a closed city east of Moscow, after protesting the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan. He had been active in human rights causes in the Soviet Union in the 1970s.

In 1985, he spent several months on a hunger strike in an effort to get an exit visa for Mrs. Bonner.

The Observer said the main document is a 20-page letter it said was written by Sakharov in October 1984 to Dr. Anatoli Alexandrov, president of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

In the letter, Sakharov reportedly appeals for his wife to be allowed to travel to the West to receive medical treatment. He also reportedly describes how he was seized by KGB agents on May 7, 1984, and taken to the cardiac section at Gorky’s Semashko hospital.

The Observer quoted Sakharov as writing that hospital authorities ″kept me by force and tormented me for four months. My attempts to flee the hospital were always blocked by KGB men, who were on duty round the clock to bar all means of escape.″

The paper said the documents ″unmask the careful plan of KGB disinformation, including postcards and telegrams over Mrs. Bonner’s name, which have for nearly two years confused the truth, suggesting that Dr. Sakharov was well and living without problems.″

″The disinformation campaign has been remarkably successful,″ Yankelevich, who left the Soviet Union in 1977, was quoted as saying by the Observer. ″These papers will reveal it for what it is, a complete tissue of lies.″

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