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Soviets Detain American Reporter

August 31, 1986

MOSCOW (AP) _ The KGB secret police detained an American reporter Saturday after a Soviet acquaintance handed him a closed package containing maps marked ″top secret,″ the reporter’s wife said.

A man who identified himself as KGB investigator Sergodeyev said by telephone that Nicholas Daniloff, Moscow correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, was being held at a KGB facility in eastern Moscow. He refused to say why Daniloff was held or if charges would be filed.

Daniloff’s wife, Ruth, said her husband telephoned and said KGB officers were trying to force him to say he is a spy.

″They keep asking him, ’Who are you working for, who are you working for, who is your boss?‴ she said.

She said her husband believed his detention was in retaliation for the Aug. 23 arrest of a Soviet U.N. employee, Gennady F. Zakharov, on spy charges in New York. Zakharov, who does not have diplomatic immunity, is being held without bail.

Daniloff, 52, an American of Russian ancestry, has worked in Moscow for U.S. News & World Report, a weekly news magazine, since April 1981 and was being reassigned to Washington.

Mrs. Daniloff, 51, said her husband went to a farewell meeting with a Soviet acquaintance and was seized by KGB agents after the Soviet gave him a packet he later found contained maps.

Jeff Trimble, another U.S. News & World Report reporter who came to Moscow recently to replace Daniloff, said it appeared to have been a setup.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jaroslav Verner said the embassy ″protested what is obviously a crude provocation on the part of the Soviets.″ He said a U.S. consular officer tried vainly to see Daniloff.

On Sunday, Trimble said U.S. diplomats still had not been allowed to see Daniloff and that the Soviet Foreign Ministry had not responded to the protest.

Trimble said the embassy told him that a consular convention permits the Soviets to hold an American for up to 72 hours without granting U.S. diplomats access.

In Washington, Henry Trewhitt, U.S. News & World Report’s deputy managing editor for international affairs, said at a news conference Saturday:

″We vehemently reject any suggestion that he was engaged in any improper activities. This man has been framed. We hope that this outrageous set of circumstances will come to a speedy close.″

Trewhitt demanded Daniloff’s immediate release, and said the journalist had not been charged. He also said Trimble will remain in Moscow as Daniloff’s replacement as planned.

Pete Martinez, a State Deparment spokesman, told reporters in Washington, ″Our embassy in Moscow has reported that Daniloff has been detained, allegedly for accepting classified materials from a Soviet citizen. We are currently making every effort to gain access to Daniloff and to secure his release from custody. Regrettably, Soviet authorities have thus far not allowed us access.

″Based on the information we have, however, it is clear that the grounds on which he has been detained are contrived. We have thus launched strong protests at high levels here and in Moscow in which we have rejected any suggestion that Daniloff may have been engaged in activities incompatible with his status as a journalist and demanded his immediate release.″

A military officer at the building where Daniloff reportedly was being held told reporters he did not know where Daniloff was. A KGB officer at the secret police agency’s headquarters also refused comment.

Daniloff was the first American reporter to be detained by the KGB since 1977.

The Associated Press reached Sergodeyev at a number Daniloff gave for the place he was being held. Sergodeyev confirmed that Daniloff was being ″detained,″ but would not say how long he would be in custody.

″I am not going to give you any more information,″ he said. ″Call the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.″

Trimble said Daniloff went to the Lenin Hills section of Moscow, south of the city center at 11 a.m. to meet a Soviet source.

Mrs. Daniloff said the source was a young man named Misha from the Kirghizian capital city of Frunze whom Daniloff met four years ago in Frunze and had seen a half-dozen times since.

She said she got a call about 1 1/2 hours later from a man who said in Russian that her husband would be ″about two hours″ late. Daniloff called at about 5:30 p.m. and spoke to both Mrs. Daniloff and Trimble.

Mrs. Daniloff said her husband told her he gave Misha some novels by American writer Stephen King, and the Soviet gave him a packet, saying it contained newspaper clippings. She said the two parted.

″Then he (Daniloff) was jumped by eight KGB agents who took him to a KGB punkt (office)″ near Lefortovo Prison in eastern Moscow, Mrs. Daniloff said.

The packet was opened and appeared to contain ″two maps marked ‘top secret,’ ″ Mrs. Daniloff quoted her husband as saying. She said he could not see what the maps showed.

″Nick said they are treating him decently, but they are trying to get them to admit ... that he is a spy,″ she said. ″It’s just so stupid.″

She said her husband sounded calm.

″Nick said he was going to carry this thing through with as much dignity as he can,″ she said. ″I’m extremely concerned about it; I think it could possibly lead to accusations of espionage.″

Daniloff was to have left Moscow within a week for a trip around the Soviet Union to retrace the path taken by his great-great-grandfather, who was exiled to Siberia in 1825 with the Decembrist revolutionaries.

He was to leave for Washington after the trip.

Western journalists occasionally are held by Soviet police while covering stories and sometimes are questioned about their contacts with Soviet citizens.

In February 1977, AP reporter George Krimsky was expelled after being accused of spying and violating Soviet currency laws.

Robert C. Toth, a Los Angeles Times correspondent, was detained in June 1977 after accepting papers from a Soviet scientist he met on the street. Toth, who was about to be transferred, eventually was allowed to leave the country.

Newsweek correspondent Andrew Nagorski was expelled in August 1982 after being accused of ″impermissible methods of journalistic activity in the territory of the U.S.S.R.″

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