Moscow — Yuri Stepanov, a ballet dancer who briefly defected to the United States and recently accused the government newspaper, Izvestia, of spreading lies about him , has been detained by Soviet plainclothes men.
The arrest, which took place as the returned defector was about to talk with an American television correspondent March 12, seemed to support a widely held assumption here about the Soviet Union's moves to repair relations with the West.
Diplomats and other political analysts have said from the start that the Soviet intiative does not imply a change in the policy on dissidents that helped sour superpower relations under the Carter administration.
Nor, goes a corollary, will it mean any major turnaround in Soviet policy in regions of potential superpower confrontation, like the Middle East.
The television correspondent at the scene of the dancer's arrest, Anne Garrels of ABC, said Mr. Stepanov struggled briefly when grabbed from behind by plainclothes men and that he motioned her to keep clear. He was said to have waved goodbye as he was being taken away in nearby car.
On what charges Mr. Stepanov was detained, as well as where, and for how long he would be held, all remained unclear at this writing. There was no immediate comment from Soviet officials on the incident.
Most foreign analysts linked the move to the dancer's comments to Western reporters earlier this month -- virtually unprecedented here -- that Izvestia, with the connivance of the KGB (secret police), had falsified an account of his defection.
Izvestia said the CIA had tried to make a spy of Mr. Stepanov, who once danced with the Bolshoi Ballet but has been out of work since returning here last year, and that he had come back because life in America was intolerable.
Mr. Stepanov told Western reporters he had returned for fear of reprisals against his family. He charged that various parts of the official newspaper account were fabrications.
He told the reporters that the KGB had warned him not to talks to the foreign press, saying, "We can break your legs, put you in an alcoholic treatment center , put you in an insane asylum, or just start a criminal case against you."
The dancer was picked up on a Moscow throughfare adjacent to one of the residential compounds reserved for foreign diplomats, businessmen, and r eporters.