Let Lidiya leave

Nothing shows up the spiritual poverty of the Soviet Union more than the poignant drama played out daily at the US Embassy in Moscow. For over three years now the embassy has been the haven and home of seven members of a Soviet Pentecostal sect seeking to emigrate to the United States where they could practice their faith in freedom. That such a simple human right is denied by any nation in this modern day and age is a throwback to medievalism.

It may therefore be significant that Soviet authorities permitted Lidiya Vashchenko, one of the seven, to return to the embassy for a reunion with her family following hospitalization during a hunger strike. Miss Vashchenko was reported to be returning to Chernogorsk in Siberia to file papers for emigration , an approach suggested by Soviet officials. The Soviet move may mean the Kremlin is now prepared to resolve the whole unsavory issue and permit the Pentecostalists to leave the country - provided they do so through normal procedures.

What political considerations may lie behind the Soviet gesture we do not know. Doubtless Mr. Brezhnev has his eye on Western opinion. But we can only cheer any step of civilized behavior and say once again that, when the Kremlin acts with feudal brutality, it harms most the image and stature of the Russian people.

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Let them go, Mr. Brezhnev. You have nothing to lose but disdain.

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