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Two Ailing Refuseniks Reported in Line to Receive Exit Visas

June 23, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Western diplomats have been informed by the Soviet government that the emigration of two well-known, ailing refuseniks is imminent.

But the refuseniks themselves, Benjamin Charny and Yuri Zieman, both of Moscow, have not been told they have permission. The Zieman family made headlines during the superpower summit in Moscow, when President Reagan planned, then canceled, a personal visit to their home.

The Soviet Foreign Ministry in Moscow informed the embassies of the United States, Sweden and Canada that Charny and Zieman would be allowed to leave. On Wednesday, ambassadors of all three nations telephoned the two men to notify them of the news.

In addition, Soviet authorities informed Charny on Tuesday that he was no longer considered to be in possession of “state secrets.” This has been the chief reason cited for denying Charny permission to emigrate over the last nine years.

Charny’s brother, Leon, who lives in Needham, Mass., said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Benjamin was telephoned Tuesday by the deputy director of the institute where Charny worked 18 years ago. The man, speaking on behalf of the ministry which supervises that institute, told him his secrecy was lifted.

Over a year ago, Charny was told he should not bother to apply to emigrate until 1995.


Zieman, a refusenik for 11 years, was refused again last week. His daughter, Galina Zieman-Khatutsky, who lives in Brighton, Mass., said in a telephone interview Wednesday that he was given no reason for the decision.

Both Khatutsky and Leon Charny said the two men were suffering greatly because of their medical problems and “the terrible strain.”

Zieman was in the hospital with hepatitis in May. He suffered what was diagnosed in November as a brain aneurism and is said to experience double vision and severe headaches.

Leon Charny said he was “terribly worried” for his brother’s medical condition. He has been suffering from coronary disease and several forms of cancer during the nine years he has been a refusenik.

The refuseniks’ families in the United States were notified of the latest developments by Richard Schifter, U.S. assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs. Initially, all parties decided to observe caution and not alert the news media. They decided otherwise after receiving assurances from U.S. officials.


Khatutsky said Schifter told her that everything was going to be all right. “It’s all decided,” she said Schifter told her.

But the State Department counseled that they should not expect the emigrations to be settled within the next couple of weeks.

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) telephoned Khatutsky to congratulate her while she was speaking with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Both the National of Conference on Soviet Jewry and the Union of Councils for Soviet Jews also welcomed the news.

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