Two Congressmen Say Soviet Jews Are Being Held ‘hostage’ for Future Deals with the United States

Two Congressmen who have just returned from a week’s visit to the Soviet Union said that Jews and others who want to emigrate from the Soviet Union believe they are being held ” hostage” for future deals with the United States.

Reps. Elliott Levitas (D. Ga.) and Bud Shuster (R. Pa.) reported on their trip at a press conference last Friday at the Capitol in which they presented messages from Soviet human rights activists to Max Kampelman, the United States Ambassador to the Madrid Conference reviewing the 1975 Helsinki Agreements.

The messages, one from activists Andrei Sakharov and Prof. Naum Meiman and the other from Irina Orlov, the wife of Yuri Orlov, the founder and leader of the Moscow group monitoring the Helsinki accords, both outlined the plight of Orlov who is in a labor camp prison. Kampelman noted that January 22 was the second anniversary of Sakharov’s exile to the “closed town” of Gorky, some 250 miles from Moscow.

The report by the two Congressmen, who visited Moscow and Leningrad as members of the House Public Works and Transportation Committee, was also presented to the United States Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, which monitors the Helsinki accords. Levitas said that he and Shuster met with Soviet officials, Soviet Jewish refuseniks, human rights activists and the “Siberian Seven,” the Pentecostal family that has been sheltered at the United States Embassy in Moscow.

POSSIBLE PRICE TO BE PAID

Shuster said that he was told by the refuseniks that they believed they were being held hostage until “the price is paid.” He said they explained this could be a grain deal, the sale of high technology or in an exchange for Soviet spies. “I would like to be worth one pound of grain,” one refusenik told Shuster.

Levitas said that Soviet officials also indicated to him that increased emigration would depend on “linkage.” He would not be specific on what the Soviets wanted, noting that a mixture of public action and quiet diplomacy is needed on this issue.

Kampelman told the two Congressman that their report helped demonstrate to the Soviet Union a consistency in United States policy on the human rights issue. He said the 35 countries which signed the Helsinki accords were declaring their support for detente, peace and cooperation and the whole gamut of human relationships, including human rights.

He said the Soviets have not lived up to the agreement and have decreased emigration to the lowest figure in years while increasing “repression” by putting more activists in jail. “If they do not live up to the commitments they have already made, how can we believe they will keep future commitments?” Kampelman asked. Levitas also noted that if the Soviets are “unwilling to abide, ” then there can be no basis to talk to them about future agreements, such as disarmament.

Kampelman will be returning to Madrid when the review of the Helsinki accords resumes February 9. Levitas said the Soviet refuseniks and activists see the Madrid conference as “vital for their security and well-being.”

Levitas later told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that one of the most moving experiences of his trip to Moscow occurred during a visit to the home of longtime refusenik Aleksander Lerner, where he met Lerner and other refuseniks. As Levitas left, all said, “Leshana Haba’s Be Yerushalayim” (“Next year in Jerusalem”.) But as Lerner was closing the door, he expressed doubt that it would be so, Levitas said.

NEXT STORY