The Soviet Union, in a surprise move welcomed by the Reagan Administration, today released Jewish dissident David Goldfarb, who once spurned a KGB overture to frame American newsman Nicholas Daniloff.
Goldfarb and his wife, Cecilia, were released to American industrialist Armand Hammer and flew to the United States aboard the Occidental Petroleum Corp. chairman's corporate jetliner. They arrived at Newark International Airport in New Jersey late this afternoon.
The release was reported by Hammer to his Washington office in a telephone call from the jet as it left Soviet airspace.
State Department spokesman Pete Martinez confirmed the release and said, "The U.S. government has followed Dr. Goldfarb's situation closely for a number of years, and we welcome the resolution of this case."
White House Silent
White House spokesman Larry Speakes, asked whether the U.S. government was involved in the release of Goldfarb, responded, "I just don't have anything to say about it."
Goldfarb, 67, a molecular biologist in need of medical care, is one of the most prominent Soviet refuseniks, Jews who have been refused permission to emigrate to Israel. His case has been raised by the Administration with the Soviets many times, including during the negotiations that freed Daniloff and at the Reykjavik, Iceland, superpower summit.
In New York, Goldfarb's son Alex, an assistant professor at Columbia University, said he was "completely stunned" when he received the news in a telephone call from Hammer from the plane.
"He said my father seemed to be in good shape. He's watching 'My Fair Lady' on the plane. He will still need an ambulance when he arrives," the younger Goldfarb said.
Son Credits Hammer
Hammer, who has often acted as an intermediary between the Kremlin and U.S. administrations, had been in the Soviet Union since last weekend on business and to open an exhibit of his art collection in Kiev.
Hammer, Alex Goldfarb said, "really saved my father's life."
The elder Goldfarb, who lost a leg battling the Nazis at Stalingrad during World War II, has been reported virtually blind and suffering from diabetes and an ulcer. He is coming to the United States to be near his son and receive medical help but left a daughter and other relatives behind.
Morris Abram, chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry, welcomed the release but called attention to the thousands being denied permission to leave.
Martinez noted that Goldfarb had been about to leave for Israel in 1984 when his visa was rescinded. He noted Alex Goldfarb's statements that the action "was connected to trumped-up charges of espionage against Daniloff in which the Soviets unsuccessfully tried to get Dr. Goldfarb to cooperate."
In 1984, Goldfarb refused a KGB overture to pass incriminating documents to Daniloff, and then the visa he had been seeking for three years was canceled.
Daniloff, a U.S. News & World Report correspondent, was charged with espionage after receiving documents stamped "Secret" from a Soviet acquaintance Aug. 30. He was allowed to leave Moscow on Sept. 29 after U.S.-Soviet negotiations that also cleared the way for last weekend's Reykjavik summit between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
Alex Goldfarb was in Reykjavik to call for his father's release. On the commercial flight back to Washington, he by chance met Soviet Ambassador Yuri Dubinin and pressed his father's case.