‘Double Defector’ Back in Moscow After 20 Years, Denounces Radio Free Europe

Times Staff Writer

A defector who deserted from the Soviet navy in 1965, then mysteriously disappeared two months ago from his well-paying job at American-run Radio Liberty in Munich, West Germany, surfaced in Moscow on Monday to accuse the broadcast operation of anti-Soviet espionage.

Oleg Tumanov, 41, nervously read a prepared statement charging that his station and Radio Free Europe are a front for CIA covert operations aimed at the Soviet Union and other East Bloc states. He referred to the two U.S.-financed stations, which are governed by a congressionally-approved independent board, as “dogs of the cold war.”

Radio Liberty broadcasts news and other programs to the Soviet Union in several of the country’s official languages. Radio Free Europe makes similar broadcasts to East Europe nations in their native languages. The stations’ declared aim is provide East Bloc listeners with information that is denied or distorted by their official media.

Radio Liberty, Tumanov contended, is run by CIA officials, and CIA agents use its offices in several European countries as cover for secret operations.


Despite the high cost to the American taxpayer, Tumanov said, the product of Radio Liberty is “rubbish.” When he was asked about the effectiveness of Soviet jamming, the moderator interrupted to say that Tumanov did not have to answer the question.

‘A Nightmare’

Tumanov refused to say how or when he returned to Moscow or why he decided to go back home despite his 20 years in the West and his yearly salary of 150,000 West German marks (about $71,000) as acting chief editor of Radio Liberty’s Russian language service. He described his long sojourn in the West as “a nightmare.”

“My road back home has been tortuous,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish anybody to experience this kind of 20-year-long road. I am now at home and it would seem the easiest thing to say that everything I have lived through has been a nightmare.


“Everything I told you here has been a reality, a nightmarish reality,” he said.

In Munich, Bob Redlich, spokesman for the two stations said: “He never looked nightmarish to me. In a sense we are surprised. He made a good impression here. His colleagues thought him a reliable and dependable worker.”

Another spokesman, Bill Mahoney, said Tumanov did not set policy and had no secrets to take back to the Soviet Union.

‘An Open Shop’


“This place is an open shop,” Mahoney said. “It’s a radio station.”

Mahoney said that after deserting, Tumanov went to Britain where he married a Russian-born emigre. He began work with Radio Liberty in 1966.

Tumanov and his wife, who had one child, divorced last fall, Mahoney said. At the time of his disappearance on Feb. 25., when he called in sick to work, Tumanov was living with a 43-year-old woman.

Tumanov said he was not kidnaped and that he returned after getting in touch with a Soviet Embassy in a country that he would not identify.


“I am not going to go into detail,” he said, sighing deeply. “This is my personal business. If certain questions were settled, they were settled elsewhere--that’s all I can say.”

Tumanov’s return to the Soviet Union was startling because of how he originally came to the West--by deserting his Soviet navy ship in the Mediterranean in 1965, an action punishable by death in the Soviet Union.

Asked about possible prosecution in his homeland, Tumanov gave another deep sigh and said: “I am here. I am a Soviet citizen, de facto.

Tumanov said he did not defect for political reasons, but because of a “lack of firm convictions and failure to consider the consequences of the steps taken.”


‘Youth’s Illusions’

“It was a youth’s illusions, a kind of egoism and the abstract hope of taking my fate in hand,” he said. “But life puts everything where it belongs. My fate ended up in somebody else’s hands.”

He said he left his parents, brother and “a girl I loved waiting in Moscow.”

Weaving a tale of coercion by Western secret services, Tumanov said that after a “quick raffle” by British and U.S. intelligence agencies, he was placed on a U.S. plane and sent to a camp for displaced persons in West Germany for six months of tests before joining Radio Liberty.


He said he went to work for Radio Liberty because he was “sick and tired of roaming from one intelligence safehouse to another.”

“And I was depressed about the uncertainty of my position,” he said. “I did not have a choice at the time.”

‘Double Defector’

The Tumanov briefing was the fourth time in the last two years that the Foreign Ministry has presented a “double defector” who left the Soviet Union and then returned.


The first was Svetlana Alliluyeva, dictator Josef Stalin’s daughter, who has since returned to the West, saying that when she appeared at her Moscow news conference to announce her repatriation, she was given a prepared script to read.

Oleg Bitov, a journalist who worked in Britain after defecting there, returned to the Soviet Union and reported that he had been kidnaped by British Intelligence and forced to work in London. The British government said he had defected in Italy and then decided to go back to Moscow.

The third defector, Vitaly S. Yurchenko, said after his return here that he had been kidnaped by the CIA and held prisoner until his escape. U.S. officials said he defected and then changed his mind.