NEW YORK (Feb. 22)
Secretary of State George Shultz began his visit to Moscow Sunday by raising the issue of human rights with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze as well as a group of refuseniks.
Shultz devoted most of his Sunday morning talk with Shevardnadze to what an American official called “a wide and broad exchange” on human rights and emigration in which the secretary reportedly heard that the Soviets would waive the restriction allowing emigration only to applicants with “first-degree” relatives abroad.
Shultz met with about 50 Soviets who have been denied emigration, many despite their contention that they have fulfilled the first-degree relative requirement. He assured them of broad American support.
Following the meeting, Shultz met for 45 minutes with dissident scientist Andrei Sakharov, who said he told Shultz that an essential condition for a human rights conference that the Soviets want held in Moscow must be “the release of all prisoners of conscience and a withdrawal from Afghanistan.”
At the reception for the refuseniks, held in the Moscow apartment of an American official, Shultz visited with Abe Stolar, a Chicago-born Jew whose parents brought him to the Soviet Union in 1931.
Stolar has been trying to return to the United States since the 1970s, and the Soviets now are denying a visa to his daughter-in-law, Yuliya Shurukht, because her mother has refused to sign the waiver of obligation.
RULE CHANGE SEEN AS ‘COSMETIC’
Several other long-term refuseniks who met Shultz yesterday spoke with Lynn Singer, executive director of the Long Island Committee for Soviet Jewry. Singer said every one of them thought the alleged suspension of the “first-degree” rule was “just cosmetic.”
She added that “lifting this rule for 1988 doesn’t mean much for long-term refuseniks charged with state secrecy.”
Natasha Khassina, a 12-year refusenik told she will never be allowed to leave, was called by OVIR emigration authorities Monday morning following her meeting with Shultz. She was told that her husband and daughter, who applied separately, had been refused and may reapply in June.
The National Conference on Soviet Jewry responded to the news of the waiver with a statement of hope that the Soviets would keep their word as well as halt refusals for “other spurious reasons, such as state secrets and parental waiver.”
The Coalition to Free Soviet Jews called the news a “constructive. . . welcome and positive development,” but said it would reserve final judgment because past Soviet promises “went unfulfilled.”
The Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry responded with “extreme caution,” citing “a veritable mountain range of other barriers” removal of relatives’ invitations from the mail; refusals based on state secrets or no reason; and the requirement of waivers of obligation from relatives who “are too frightened, sometimes too vindictive to sign.”