The Impasse Ends: The Swap : Daniloff Arrives Home, Jubilant Over Release and Pleased with Deal that Led to His Freedom
Nicholas Daniloff came home to champagne, yellow roses and his children Tuesday, proclaiming himself both vindicated and enormously satisfied with the arrangement that resulted in his freedom a month after he was seized in Moscow by the KGB.
The journalist and his wife, Ruth, arrived at Dulles International Airport in suburban Virginia just half an hour after an Aeroflot jetliner carrying accused Soviet spy Gennady F. Zakharov lifted off the same runway on its way to Moscow.
Thus ended the affair that had threatened to ruin plans for a summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev by year’s end.
Daniloff, the former Moscow correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, was obviously tired after his flight from Frankfurt, West Germany, but told the horde of reporters who greeted him: “I feel terrific.
“My Russian grandmother in New Hampshire used to tell me there is always a silver lining in every cloud. I feel that what has happened . . . really illustrates that.”
A ‘Wonderful Thing’
His arrival ended a long day in which he not only made it home but plans also were announced for Reagan and Gorbachev to meet in Iceland for pre-summit talks, a stunning development that he called a “wonderful thing.”
In addition to the release of Daniloff and the expulsion of Zakharov from the United States, negotiations between Secretary of State George P. Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze also produced a Soviet agreement to release Yuri Orlov, a Russian dissident.
Daniloff emphatically refused to accept a characterization of his and Zakharov’s release as a prisoner swap.
“This was not an exchange of prisoners,” he said. “This was a complex diplomatic arrangement in which Nicholas Daniloff was vindicated, Zakharov pleaded no contest and left this country. In addition . . . the Administration obtained the freedom of a leading Soviet dissident, and I am very happy about it.”
He later added: “I left as an ordinary, free American citizen. I do not believe that these things are in any way equivalent. I feel very very pleased about this diplomatic arrangement.”
Of Orlov, Daniloff said, “I am absolutely thrilled that, after a long and difficult imprisonment, after having been deprived of his professional career, after having suffered difficulties with his health, that he at last will be able to leave” the Soviet Union.
The correspondent and his wife were reunited with their daughter, Miranda, 23, and their son, Caleb, 16, in a transit lounge at the airport moments after their arrival.
Also on hand for the reunion were Henry Trewhitt, U.S. News & World Report’s foreign editor, who had been in Moscow for the last two weeks, editor David Gergen and chairman and editor in chief Mortimer B. Zuckerman.
Holding a bouquet of yellow roses and sipping champagne poured by his daughter, Daniloff kidded with U.S. Customs Service agents checking his baggage, telling them: “If you find something in there that I am not allowed to have, let me know.”
His wife stood nearby, saying to no one in particular: “We got back. We got back.”
‘Freed Nick Daniloff’
Appearing at a press conference moments later, Daniloff embraced Cheryl Arvidson, a former wire service colleague on Capitol Hill, and posed for pictures with a “Free Nick Daniloff” T-shirt, modified by his son to read: “Freed Nick Daniloff.”
Zakharov, who was arrested by the FBI on spying charges a week before Daniloff was jailed in Moscow, walked out of a federal courthouse in Manhattan on Tuesday morning under orders to leave the country within 24 hours.
He was driven south in a car bearing diplomatic license plates, arriving at the airport about five hours after entering his arranged plea of no contest to espionage charges.
Grinning from ear to ear and flashing a “V for victory” sign, he bantered briefly with reporters, proclaiming his innocence and his affection for the United States. “I’m leaving with mixed feelings,” he said, though he added that his last days in New York were “not a good experience, I would say.”
He was then escorted to the waiting Soviet airliner, which departed about an hour later.
Winding Up Moscow Tour
Daniloff was winding up his Moscow tour for his magazine when he was arrested with purportedly secret military information that had been handed to him by a Russian acquaintance.
Until then, he had planned to take a leave of absence upon his return to Washington to write a book about his Russian great-great-grandfather, who was exiled to Siberia for participating in the Decembrist Uprising against Czar Nicholas I in 1825.
On the day before he was permitted to fly out of Moscow to West Germany, Daniloff said he had sensed that he would be allowed to leave soon and that he had gone to the cemetery and left flowers on his great-great-grandfather’s grave.
“I hope to be able to do that again someday,” the newsman said as he and his family left the airport at dusk Tuesday.