American journalist Nicholas Daniloff flew to the West and freedom today, released in a still-secret U.S.-Soviet agreement that could help shake off a deepening chill in superpower relations.
In New York, a Soviet Bloc source at the United Nations said Gennady F. Zakharov, charged with being a Soviet spy, will be exchanged for Daniloff.
But President Reagan denied there had been any trade-off and told reporters that details of the arrangements that led to Daniloff’s freedom will be announced Tuesday.
Reminded that he had said that his Administration would not trade with Moscow to win Daniloff’s freedom, he replied: “Wait until tomorrow. We didn’t.”
Asked by reporters whether he had “blinked” in staring down Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev over the affair, Reagan retorted, “They blinked.”
The 51-year-old Daniloff, U.S. News & World Report correspondent in Moscow for five years, told reporters at Sheremetyevo Airport before leaving Moscow for Frankfurt, West Germany, “I leave more in sorrow than anger.”
Poem of ‘Unwashed Russia’
In an emotional departure, he read a verse by 19th-Century Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov that bids farewell to “unwashed Russia, land of slaves,” and to its “all-seeing eyes . . . all-hearing ears.”
“I want to say that I don’t know the terms of the arrangement,” the slight, bespectacled Daniloff told reporters. “As far as I know, I am leaving independently.”
Daniloff and his wife, Ruth, then boarded a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt, ending a suspenseful month during which his arrest had threatened to derail relations between the world’s two most powerful nations.
The KGB secret service jailed Daniloff as an accused spy Aug. 30, in what U.S. officials described as retaliation for the arrest in New York a week earlier of the 39-year-old Zakharov, a physicist and Soviet U.N. employee.
Although the Reagan Administration had insisted there would no swap of the two men, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze negotiated for long hours in Washington and New York in recent days over their fate.
Some sources in the United States had said a broader deal might also include the release of some Soviet dissidents. And the Soviets, at the same time, were seeking relaxation of a U.S. order expelling 25 Soviet U.N. diplomats from the United States. The U.S. government alleges that some Soviet U.N. employees are engaged in espionage.
Agreed Sunday Night
At the United Nations, the usually well-informed Soviet Bloc source said Shultz and Shevardnadze had agreed during a meeting Sunday night that Daniloff and Zakharov would be exchanged. But the source provided no further details.
In Washington, a knowledgeable source at the U.S. Justice Department, which brought the charges against Zakharov, would not say what deal, if any, had been made for Daniloff’s release. He did say, however, that Zakharov will not leave the United States today.
Like the Soviet Bloc source, he insisted on anonymity.
Earlier, the U.S. attorney’s office in the Brooklyn borough of New York City said there has been no change in Zakharov’s status.
Reagan reported Daniloff’s release during a Republican campaign stop in Kansas City, Mo., but said nothing to his audience at a campaign rally for a GOP candidate about the agreement that produced it.
The Daniloff case was one of several issues threatening to wreck plans for a summit between Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Asked today whether a summit is still possible this year, White House spokesman Larry Speakes replied, “It’s possible.”
Although Soviet officials had denied any link between the cases, Daniloff was not released from prison and into the custody of the U.S. Embassy until Sept. 12, the day U.S. officials agreed to release Zakharov into the custody of Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin.
‘V for Victory’ Sign
It was evening Moscow time today when Daniloff left the embassy compound in an official embassy car. Accompanied by U.S. Charge d’Affaires Richard Combs and Henry Trewhitt, deputy managing editor of Daniloff’s magazine, the freed journalist flashed a “V for victory” sign out the car window.
At Sheremetyevo Airport, he hugged Jeff Trimble, his replacement as U.S. News & World Report correspondent here, and Trimble’s wife, Gretchen.
Daniloff told reporters at the airport: “I was informed sometime this afternoon that I would be allowed to leave. My passport was returned by the Foreign Ministry with my multiple-entry visa and my press card, which is still valid.
“I want to say that I don’t know the terms of the arrangement. As far as I know, I am leaving independently.”
He also read, in Russian, the eight-line Lermontov verse, which begins, “Farewell to you, unwashed Russia, land of slaves, land of gentry.”
Ruth Daniloff, who for weeks had championed her husband’s cause with the world press and Soviet officials, said it feels “terrific” to be headed home.
Combs and Trewhitt accompanied them on the flight to the West.
‘Occasion for Rejoicing’
On Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-Tex.) called Daniloff’s release “an occasion for rejoicing. That relieves us of an enormous concern that all of us have felt,” he told reporters.
On the Senate floor, Majority Leader Bob Dole (R-Kan.) said that “although all the information surrounding Daniloff’s release is not yet available, it appears his release is unconditional.
“Implicitly, at least,” said Dole, “the Soviets are admitting that Nick Daniloff was not a spy, and they’re trying to find a way out of a colossal blunder.”
Also in Washington, David R. Gergen, editor of U.S. News & World Report, said at a curbside news conference outside the magazine’s headquarters that Daniloff is “coming out alone,” and added:
“There is only one man who is moving today. He is coming out unconditionally. Whatever other arrangements have been made, we should leave that to the United States government.”