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Parents Visit Teen-age Pilot in Prison

June 16, 1987

MOSCOW (AP) _ The parents of a West German teen-ager jailed for flying a plane onto Red Square spent three hours at Lefortovo prison Tuesday, visiting their son for the first time since his May 28 arrest and talking with Soviet investigators.

In a prepared statement issued by Karl-Heinz and Monika Rust later in the day, the couple said their son, Mathias, ″is feeling well, and according to his words he also is being treated well.″

The Rusts said their conversation with Mathias was ″agreeable″ but they declined to answer any questions about the meeting, saying ″in accordance with our son’s request we are not going to give any further statements during our stay in Moscow.″

A West German Embassy car took the couple to the prison in Moscow that previously held U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers and American journalist Nicholas Daniloff.

About 15 minutes before the 10 a.m. meeting, the Rusts brushed past reporters without responding to questions.

West Germany’s Stern magazine paid the couple’s expenses for the Moscow visit in return for exclusive access to their commentaries, said an embassy official who did not want to be identified by name.

Police near the prison moved reporters a block away while the Rusts were inside. After the visit, the couple was driven away in a vehicle with a Stern photographer and correspondent.

A West German Embassy spokeswoman confirmed that the Rusts met with their 19-year-old son for one hour and then with the investigator overseeing the case.

Embassy chief for legal and consular affairs Gerhard Enver Schroembgens sat in on the meeting between the Rusts and their son, but only the embassy translator was allowed to stay for the discussions with the investigators.

West German diplomats are trying to arrange another visit between the Rusts and Mathias, the spokeswoman said.

She declined to answer other questions about the Rust case.

Tuesday’s meetings were only the second between the jailed pilot and West German officials since the incident on May 28. Schroembgens spent 30 minutes with Rust on June 1, when he described the young pilot as ″calm″ about his detention.

Later in the day, several Moscow-based correspondents were invited to the home of Stern’s Moscow reporter Mario R. Dederichs, where the Rusts read their statement about the meeting.

Dressed in casual clothes, the couple looked tired but calm as they made a statement thanking the Soviet government ″for the great happiness of being able to see our son again.″

″We hope that this case will come to a positive conclusion soon,″ the Rusts said in their statement.

Rust flew from Helsinki, Finland, in a single-engine Cessna, across more than 500 miles of Soviet territory protected by one of the most highly regarded air defense systems in the world. He buzzed Lenin’s mausoleum and other Kremlin landmarks before setting down on the cobblestone expanse between St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Kremlin wall.

Two days after the incident, the ruling Communist Party Politburo, headed by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, sent Defense Minister Sergei L. Sokolov into retirement and fired Air Defenses Chief Alexander I. Koldunov.

Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov was asked at a regular news briefing what was discussed during the prison meetings.

″The parents met with their flying son and the (West German) consul was present, but there was no Soviet Foreign Ministry representative there,″ Gerasimov replied, referring all other questions to the West German Embassy.

Asked what Soviet investigators have learned about Rust’s motives for the May 28 flight, Gerasimov said he could only speculate.

He raised the question of how a 19-year-old could afford to lease a plane for as many days as Rust had the Cessna from a Hamburg aeroclub, but he did not offer any explanations.

Rust borrowed the plane from his Hamburg flying club May 13. He spent the next two weeks flying through Scandinavia before taking off from Helsinki, Finland, for Moscow.

Rust’s parents arrived Monday afternoon from West Germany. A Soviet consular official in Hamburg said they had been issued visas valid through Wednesday.

No formal charges have been filed against Rust, and Soviet law allows investigators to take up to two months before issuing an indictment against an imprisoned suspect.

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