In a rare report on the health of dissident physicist Andrei D. Sakharov, the Soviet news agency Tass said Saturday that doctors have found “deviations from the norm caused by aging (but no) negative dynamics” in his condition.
The state agency said doctors had prescribed “preventive medicinal therapy” for Sakharov, one of the pioneers in developing the Soviet hydrogen bomb, who is in internal exile in the city of Gorky. It gave no indication of what medication was ordered. Sakharov is being treated at an outpatient clinic, Tass said.
The statement came as Sakharov’s wife, Yelena Bonner, arrived in the United States for medical treatment, and it followed reports from relatives that his health is “precarious” in the aftermath of a long hunger strike that he ended in October.
Tass’ comment also followed a report from Oslo by Allan Wynn, head of the Andrei Sakharov campaign, that the 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner was gravely ill and might not survive another winter in Gorky, an isolated Russian city 250 miles east of Moscow.
In its dispatch from Moscow, Tass said Western news reports that Sakharov is in poor health amount to “blasphemous political speculation.”
The scientist recently underwent “an all-around medical checkup” at the Semashko Regional Clinical Hospital in Gorky, the Soviet news agency noted, adding that specialists from the Soviet Health Ministry were among the doctors who examined him.
“They have made the conclusion that there were no negative dynamics in state of health of Sakharov,” Tass said. “But there were deviations from the norm caused by aging.”
The rebuttal was one of the few times that Tass has mentioned Sakharov’s name since he was sent to Gorky in 1980 for dissident activity.
Gorky is an industrial city that is closed to foreigners. Sakharov’s isolation makes it almost impossible to get firsthand reports on his well-being.
His stepson, Alexei Semyonov, told reporters in Rome last week that Soviet officials censored Sakharov’s messages to friends in order to conceal his hunger strike, which he conducted in an effort to persuade the government to allow his wife to travel outside the country for medical treatment.
Tass said Saturday that doctors have described Sakharov as a “model patient,” adding, “He treats his health with utmost care and meticulously observes the prescribed regime of taking medicinal preparations.”
Sakharov’s stepson, however, said the scientist had been force-fed at the hospital during the hunger strike. His weight fell from about 180 pounds to 136, although he has climbed back up to 163, Semyonov said.
The Tass report made no mention of a hunger strike or force-feeding.