Sakharov, Bonner Say Gorbachev Probably Will Be Overthrown
Jan. 26, 1989
PARIS (AP) _ Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev probably will be ousted because he has failed to seek popular support in direct elections, Andrei D. Sakharov and his wife were quoted as saying in an interview published Thursday.
''The conservatives will overthow Gorbachev or at least impose their views on him,'' the conservative French daily Le Figaro quoted Sakharov, the dean of the Soviet human rights movement, as saying.
Le Figaro said the six-hour interview with Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner, also a prominent rights activist, was conducted over three consecutive evenings at their Moscow home.
The newspaper quoted Bonner as saying: ''The only real defense for a chief of state is direct election. Why is Gorbachev afraid? We would elect him. Our country has no other leader.
''I think he will be overthrown soon,'' she was quoted as saying. ''I would not bet 10 rubles on Gorbachev.''
Bonner said that if Gorbachev is ousted, ''so will (be) all those who believed in perestroika,'' his program to restructure Soviet society and its economy, the paper reported.
Sakharov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, said the West must continue to pressure the Soviet Union on rights issues, at least until an international human rights conference that is scheduled in Moscow in 1991.
He said the meeting, which initially was opposed by Britain and the United States, ''should only take place if the (human rights) situation in the Soviet Union is truly satisfactory.''
Le Figaro quoted Sakharov as saying that perestroika was ''absolutely necessary. There is no other solution. This doesn't mean that you have to support Gorbachev without reservation. To associate perestroika 100 percent with his name would not be fair.
''Gorbachev could come under pressure. He could have other ideas,'' Sakharov was quoted as saying. ''The restructuring has to be supported in general without worrying whether some people are going to be upset. For the Soviet individual today, the question of collective rights is more immediate than individual rights.''
He was quoted as saying he did not like the new electoral law, which only allows officially sanctioned organizations to nominate candidates for the new people's congress.
He said he also disliked another new law designed to allow authorities to break up meetings and demonstrations and to arrest Armenian nationalist leaders, Le Figaro reported.
Sakharov described his visit last month to the adjacent southern Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are embroiled in an ethnic dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a largely Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
''It was terrifying,'' he was quoted as saying. ''A pregnant woman was raped, burned alive, stabbed and her fetus thrown on the sidewalk during the three-day siege of an Armenian family, then she was killed.''
Most Armenians are Christians, and most Azerbaijanis are Moslems. Historical enmity between the two ethnic groups has broken out periodically.
Sakharov also was quoted as saying the number of Soviet Jews denied exit visas ''has been considerably reduced, but the legislation has not yet been changed.''