Russian Did So After Being Returned to Vessel, Official Says : Sailor Who Jumped Ship Apparently Slit Wrists

Times Staff Writer

The Soviet sailor who twice jumped ship in New Orleans last month apparently cut his wrists after being returned to his freighter by U.S. officials, a State Department official told a Senate subcommittee Tuesday.

The official, William W. Woessner, testified that American doctors who examined seaman Miroslav Medvid made the discovery after Medvid was allowed to leave the ship for interviews with U.S. authorities who sought to find out if he wanted to defect.

The wounds “were not health-threatening,” said Woessner, who is acting assistant secretary of state for European affairs, and the doctors and a psychologist judged Medvid to be “in sound health.”


Asked if there was any indication of a suicide attempt, Woessner replied, “I don’t know.”

No Urine or Blood Tests

But during a 45-minute examination of Medvid, no urinalysis or blood tests were done to establish that he was not under the influence of drugs, the State Department official said at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on immigration.

Woessner said the captain of the Soviet freighter told U.S. officials that Medvid had cut his wrists after being returned to the vessel by American immigration officials, who judged that the 25-year-old sailor was not seeking permanent asylum here.

Woessner did not explain why his department had not disclosed Medvid’s injuries in a public statement issued five days after the incident began Oct. 24.

Sen. Jeremiah Denton (R-Ala.), a subcommittee member, demanded to know “what’s happened to the spirit of the U.S. . . . I think we’re sick over here with that kind of . . . complacency.”

‘Mistakes Were Made’

Alan C. Nelson, head of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, who also testified at the subcommittee’s inquiry into the puzzling episode, conceded that “mistakes were made” by his agency in too abruptly determining Medvid’s state of mind.

If established procedures had been followed, Nelson said, “Mr. Medvid would not have been summarily returned . . . to the Soviet vessel” after he jumped over the side of the ship Oct. 24 and 25.


But Nelson told the subcommittee that the ultimate decision to send Medvid back to his ship was a proper one in view of the sailor’s freely expressed wishes during subsequent State Department interviews through an interpreter.

“He repeatedly expressed his desire to return to the U.S.S.R., and there was no doubt on the part of U.S. medical doctors who examined him about his ability to make a decision,” Woessner testified.

However, Irene Padoch, a Border Patrol interpreter who spoke to Medvid in his native Ukrainian, said the seaman told her he jumped ship in the Mississippi River “because I like to live in an honest country,” apparently referring to the United States.

Meanwhile, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans refused to order the Reagan Administration to bar the Soviet freighter from leaving U.S. territorial waters until Medvid could be questioned once more.