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Soviets OK Sakharov Trip to U.S. : Rights Activist to Attend Washington Meeting, Visit L.A.

Associated Press

Human rights activist Andrei D. Sakharov said today that the Kremlin has agreed to let him leave the Soviet Union for the first time, to attend a conference in the United States in November.

Sakharov, the father of the Soviet dissident movement, told a news conference that the lifting of a travel ban against him was due to Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s program of economic and political restructuring and the personal efforts of some Soviet officials.

Granting Sakharov a visa to travel abroad--he said he has not yet officially applied for the document--will be a dramatic gesture to show the extent of liberalization under Gorbachev’s reforms.

Sakharov, a physicist, had been denied permission to travel on the ground that he had access to sensitive information while working on the Soviet hydrogen bomb.

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He has spoken out repeatedly for free emigration and has protested Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. For his human rights activities, he was awarded the 1975 Nobel Peace Prize.

Under Leonid I. Brezhnev, he was exiled to the closed city of Gorky in 1980 and was released under Gorbachev’s administration in December, 1986.

He told reporters today that the government had agreed to allow him to attend a conference of the International Foundation for the Survival and Development of Humanity.

‘I Will Take Part’

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The Moscow-based group is a nonprofit philanthropic organization set up last January to help solve environmental, human rights, disarmament and economic development problems.

“This question was raised by the authorities of the foundation and presented to decision-makers, and now it has received a positive response. . . . I will take part in the coming trip by the foundation,” Sakharov said.

The clearest indication that Sakharov would be given foreign travel documents had been a decree issued Oct. 5 by the Council of Ministers.

The decree directed the Foreign Ministry to “provide members of the Board of Directors and other official representatives of the foundation and their family members multiple entrance and exit visas for terms of up to two years.”

Sakharov is a member of the board of the foundation, as are prominent Soviet scientists such as Yevgeny Velikhov and Roald Sagdeyev.

Sakharov has been invited to attend the board meeting in Washington on Nov. 15-16 as well as meetings in the Los Angeles area, San Francisco, Boston, New York and possibly Chicago, said group member Edward B. Hodgman.

Today’s news conference was held in an auditorium at the headquarters of the government press agency Novosti. It was the second time the government furnished a stage for the 67-year-old activist to speak to reporters.

Velikhov, a vice president of the prestigious Soviet Academy of Sciences, shook Sakharov’s hand and smiled as Sakharov arrived. Sakharov said Velikhov had personally interceded to get him permission to travel abroad.

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In another sign of his return to good graces of Soviet officials, Sakharov was elected one of 47 members of the ruling Presidium of the prestigious academy. During the now disgraced rule of Brezhnev, some members of the academy tried to expel Sakharov.


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