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American Deserter Flown Back to U.S.

November 5, 1987

FRANKFURT, West Germany (AP) _ A U.S. Army private who defected to the Soviet Union in April left Frankfurt for the United States today under U.S. military escort, military officials said.

Wade Roberts, 22, had voluntarily returned to West Germany from the Soviet Union on Wednesday. He was arrested Wednesday night.

Roberts left the Rhine-Main U.S. Air Force base outside Frankfurt aboard an Air Force plane this evening and was headed for Fort Dix, N.J., said Walter Nebgen, spokesman for the 5th Army Corps in Frankfurt.

″He’s being escorted by representatives from the Frankfurt military community and will be released to the provost marshal’s office at Frt Dix upon arrival,″ said Nebgen, a civilian.

Nebgen said Petra Neumann, Roberts’ West German girlfriend and companion in the Soviet Union, did not fly to the United States with him.

Roberts, who faces desertion charges, spent his first day back in the West under guard in a military hospital.

U.S. military police took him into custody a few hours after he arrived in Frankfurt aboard an Aeroflot flight from Moscow with Ms. Neumann, who is pregnant.

Lt. Col. John Dye, another spokesman for the Army’s 5th Corps, said Roberts did not resist arrest when he was picked up on a Frankfurt street. Dye said Roberts would be charged with desertion.

Roberts said upon arrival that he had been told by U.S. authorities in the Soviet Union that he would not be charged with desertion, but would be prosecuted on the less serious charge of going absent without leave.

Ms. Neumann, 24, had helped him defect and was with him at the time of his arrest. She had also been taken to the hospital, but was released on today, Nebgen said.

Dye said conviction on desertion charges could result in Roberts’ dishonorable discharge, loss of all pay and privileges and maximum of two years of hard labor.

Before his arrest, Roberts on Wednesday evening gave a television interview during which he said he decided to return to the West after U.S. officials in Moscow informed him he would only face AWOL charges.

Dye said he was unaware of any such promise.

Roberts deserted from an Army base in West Germany in April and fled to East Germany hidden in the trunk of a rented car driven by Ms. Neumann.

In the interview with the American Cable News Network, Roberts charged that Army officials had told him he was spending too much time with his girlfriend, and that that was why he defected. In the days following his defection, he was quoted by Soviet media as complaining of harsh disciplinary treatment meted out by U.S. Army officers.

″When they told me that I could not be with Petra, and that I should hang out with the Americans more than the Germans ... it got pretty serious. I had to do something drastic because of their drastic actions,″ he said in the interview.

Roberts was asked why he returned to the West. He replied: ″I’ve got this child coming with Petra, and I really don’t feel like I should go around for the rest of my life having a charge .. . from the United States hanging over my head. It’s not a very pleasant prospect to look forward to.″

Roberts, a native of Riverside, Calif., said he hoped to settle in West Germany.

Asked in the interview how he felt after his flight, Roberts replied: ″Well, I kind of feel a little apprehensive, a little anxious. It’s a very strange feeling. It’s kind of scarier coming back through to the West than it was going to the Soviet Union.″

Roberts was assigned to a post in Giessen, West Germany, when he defected to the Soviet Embassy in East Berlin.

Roberts and Ms. Neumann were living in Ashkrabad, capital of the Central Asian republic of Turkmenia, before their return to Moscow several weeks ago.

The Soviet news agency Tass said the couple had been provided with a ″well-appointed″ apartment in Ashkarabad for which they paid 10 rubles, or about $15, monthly rent. Tass also said Roberts had been able to choose his job as a snake catcher and had expressed an interest in exotic animals when he arrived in the Soviet Union.

Roberts said that living in the Soviet Union had been ″very interesting, it’s been quite an experience.″

″The Soviets treated me exceptionally well,″ he said. ″They gave me no problems. I’ve not been restricted to say anything I want to or do anything I want to. I’ve no problems with the Soviets at all.″

But he also said that he didn’t plan on returning to the Soviet Union.

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