Armenian Nationalist Expelled to Ethiopia, Relative Reports
MOSCOW (AP) _ An Armenian activist expelled from the Soviet Union is in Ethiopia trying to arrange refuge in the United States for himself and his family, a relative and a friend said today.
The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia said in a statement today that it had started paper work to grant asylum to Paruyr Ayrikyan. An embassy source said Ayrikyan’s case was being given priority.
Ayrikyan, a leader in the unsuccessful Armenian campaign to annex an predominantly Armenian region of the neighboring republic of Azerbaijan, was flown to the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, a week ago, the sources said.
Ayrikyan was banished to Ethiopia last week and brought to the Armenian community for help in resettling, another Armenian exile told The Associated press by telephone from Addis Ababa.
″Everyone is helping him, there’s no need to worry,″ said Theresa Masras, an Armenian who left the Soviet Union 28 years ago and is married to an Ethiopian businessman.
She said Ayrikyan was not available at the time because he was at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa trying to arrange a visa to the United States.
Ayrikyan called family members in Moscow late Tuesday night and said he was in Addis Ababa, said his mother-in-law, Nina Sidorenko.
Mrs. Sidorenko said Ayrikyan began a hunger strike to protest his ″total isolation″ at the Ghion hotel in the capital of Soviet-allied Ethiopia.
But Mrs. Masras, who said she makes her permanent home in Houston, Texas, said Ayrikyan was free and being well cared for by fellow Armenians.
Mrs. Sidorenko said Ayrikyan told her that on Tuesday he went to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa.
She quoted Ayrikyan as saying a Soviet diplomat in Addis Ababa, Eduard K. Kolgin, assured him his wife, their three children and other relatives wishing to accompany him in exile would be allowed to leave the Soviet Union, she said.
Mrs. Sidorenko said Ayrikyan told her he was taken from the Armenian capital of Yerevan to Moscow on July 20 and kept overnight at Lefortovo Prison. Ayrikyan said Soviet agents accompanied him the next day on a direct flight to Addis Ababa.
Ayrikyan, who served 17 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps before his release last year following a government review of political sentencings, was in frequent contact with Western journalists earlier this year when Armenians began a drive to annex the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.
He was arrested March 25 and charged with defaming the Soviet state in his reports to Moscow-based correspondents. Soviet authorities have not allowed foreign journalists to travel to the Caucasus Mountain region since the Nagorno-Karabakh issue surfaced.
American and other Western officials in Moscow last week declined to give the expelled nationalist refuge on the grounds that he had not personally requested it.
Mrs. Sidorenko said her daughter, Yelena Ayrikyan, was planning to contact U.S. diplomats in Moscow about joining her husband in the United States.
In Moscow, U.S. Embassy spokesman Richard Gilbert said that as of this morning the American Consulate had not received application for asylum from Yelena Ayrikyan or other members of Arikyan’s family.
″But if they should approach us, clearly we’re going to move expeditiously to reunite them,″ Gilbert said.
He said he could not immediately confirm whether Ayrikyan approached U.S. diplomats in Addis Ababa.
Armenians who form a majority of the 162,000 population in the contested region in the Soviet republic of Azerbaijan allege mistreatment by the Azerbaijani government. They began a vocal campaign in February to join the Soviet republic of Armenia, but the Soviet leadership last week rejected the annexation bid.