Roald Zelichenok, newly freed from a prison camp, arrived in Moscow on Sunday and vowed to fight for freedom of other Soviet citizens who he says were jailed for their beliefs.
He said that his release on Friday came as an "absolutely incredible surprise" despite some signs as early as last fall that his prison conditions were improving.
Zelichenok was one of at least 43 people freed from prison, labor camp or exile during the past week, according to physicist Andrei D. Sakharov.
Sakharov, who Saturday had told of the release of 42 people, reported the release of a 43rd--dissident historian Yevgeny Antsupov--in telephone talks with Western correspondents on Sunday. Antsupov has returned to his home in Kharkov after a few months of his prison term and five years of internal exile were commuted, the physicist said.
Zelichenok spent an evening with friends in Moscow before boarding a night train to his home in Leningrad.
To complete his "liberation," he said, he hoped that he and his wife, Galina, would be allowed to emigrate to Israel despite years of previous refusals.
Colorado Senator's Help
Zelichenok credited U.S. Sen. William L. Armstrong (R-Colo.) for intervening to help him obtain good medical treatment when he was in a prison hospital at Alma Ata in the Republic of Kazakhstan.
"I think that my release was the result of a very long and hard struggle here and abroad," he said in an interview.
"Now it's necessary to concentrate our efforts on the fate of other imprisoned 'refuseniks' like my good friend Vladimir Lipschitz, also of Leningrad, and one of the most terrible cases, Josef Begun."
Begun, 54, reportedly has been on a hunger strike at Chistopol prison. His wife, Inna, has said she is frantic with worry because she has not been allowed to visit him or receive letters from him for many months.
One of the most active Jewish dissidents in the 1970s, Begun was convicted of "anti-Soviet agitation" in 1983 and sentenced to seven years in prison and five years in exile. He had been refused permission to emigrate to Israel since 1971 and was a pioneer Hebrew teacher.
Zelichenok said he saw some signs of improvement in his prison camp routine last fall when he was allowed to receive mail from abroad.
"I spent my 50th birthday in the camp, and it was delightful to get letters and telegrams from all over the world," he said.
But his release occurred without warning, and it took only several hours for him to be freed after appearances before an "officers' court" and a "people's court," which he called empty formalities.
He said he was released from his prison camp in Kazakhstan because he had served more than half of his three-year term for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda.
"It was possible to set me free without a special decree and without losing their face," he said.