Germany Demands Return of Honecker : Diplomacy: The Soviets say he’s too ill to travel. Bonn is angry but isn’t likely to press the issue, officials say.
An angry German government on Friday demanded the return of former East German leader Erich Honecker from the Soviet Union, but senior officials in Bonn admitted that he will probably never be returned.
“We are not going to damage Soviet-German relations on account of Mr. Honecker,” government spokesman Dieter Vogel said. “Naturally, we have to let the Soviets know that such actions cannot be permitted, but there are also wider considerations that are important.”
The 78-year-old former Communist leader who ruled East Germany for the better part of two decades before he was removed from power in October, 1989, was flown Wednesday by the Soviets to Moscow from a Soviet military hospital near Berlin, ostensibly because of a sharply deteriorating medical condition.
Honecker reportedly suffers from high blood pressure, but further details about his failing health were not immediately available.
In Moscow, Soviet officials let it be known Friday that Honecker will not be returned to Germany.
“He’s come here for medical treatment, and he will stay here for medical treatment,” Foreign Minister Alexander A. Bessmertnykh said. “This is not a visit.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Vitaly Churkin admitted that the Soviet decision was a “technical violation” of German sovereignty, but he underscored Bessmertnykh’s remarks that Honecker will not be returned.
“He’s too sick to be flown back to Germany,” Churkin said.
While the move triggered immediate indignation in German government circles, it appeared to end an embarrassing political standoff that had gone on since last December, when a Berlin court first issued a warrant for Honecker’s arrest on suspicion of manslaughter.
He is accused of personally issuing “shoot to kill” orders to East German guards along the frontiers that existed between the two Germanys and around West Berlin until the collapse of the Berlin Wall just a few weeks after Honecker’s ouster.
Despite German diplomatic pressure, the Soviet Union consistently refused to let the warrant be served on Honecker, who has lived at a Soviet military base southwest of Berlin for the past year.
Times staff writer Michael Parks, in Moscow, contributed to this story.