Kremlin steps up war of words over US journalist

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

The Soviet Union has intensified its war of words over American correspondent Nicholas Daniloff, depicting him as a man long under suspicion of being a spy, shunned by many of his colleagues because of this, and with direct links to a United States diplomat expelled last year for espionage. An article in the government newspaper Izvestia made the charges against the imprisoned journalist. They go beyond the original accusations made against Mr. Daniloff, the outgoing correspondent of U.S. News & World Report who was arrested Aug. 30 by the KGB, the Soviet secret police. He was indicted on espionage charges Sunday.

Publication of the article, immediately after US threats of retaliation for Daniloff's arrest and indictment, brings Moscow and Washington even closer to confrontation.

The diplomat mentioned in the article, Paul Stombaugh, was expelled in September 1985. Izvestia says that, on an undisclosed date, Mr. Stombaugh wrote to a Soviet citizen by the name of Roman to assure him that ``the letter which you gave to a journalist on Jan. 24'' reached him safely. The journalist was Daniloff, Izvestia writer V. Krotov asserts.

Recommended: How well do you know the world of spying? Take our CIA and NSA quiz.

This sketchy incident is just part of the additional material available to prove the Daniloff is a spy, Mr. Krotov says.

``Is more proof needed?'' he asks rhetorically. ``It exists.''

The bulk of the evidence revolves around Daniloff's Aug. 30 meeting with ``Misha,'' a longtime acquaintance from the Central Asian city of Frunze.

Although Daniloff was busy preparing to leave the Soviet Union, ``none of his urgent business could compare with the coming important meeting, which he was awaiting so impatiently,'' the article says.

At the meeting, in the Lenin Hills just above Moscow, Misha gave Daniloff an envelope.

Both Daniloff and the KGB agree on this point. But Daniloff's family maintains that he was framed in order to exchange him for Gennady Zakharov, a Soviet citizen arrested for espionage in New York on Aug. 23. The Soviets deny this, and yesterday's article seems intended to reinforce their arguments.

The envelope given to Daniloff contained military documents, Izvestia says, including a map of part of Afghanistan with notes on it of military positions, and 26 photographs of soldiers, officers, and military equipment.

Confronted with the documents, Daniloff described them as ``an unexpected and unpleasant discovery.''

``Was it really unexpected and unpleasant?'' the article asks.

Misha has also been detained, Izvestia says. The newspaper quotes him as saying that, soon after their first meeting in Frunze in 1982, Daniloff began asking him for classified information. This included the locations and strengths of units preparing to leave for Afghanistan, photographs of equipment to be used in Afghanistan, and the addresses of secret establishments.

Daniloff's name was well known among the foreign press corps, the article says. After an initial stint with United Press International in the 1960s, ``he disappeared for a long time and then turned up again the USSR, having changed his journalistic `cover' at the last minute.''

When they heard his name, the article says, many foreign correspondents ``frowned unhappily,'' and ``quite often made it clear that they had nothing in common with him.'' Colleagues of Daniloff, contacted yesterday, dismissed the insinuations as baseless.

Ruth Daniloff, the reporter's wife, called the Izvestia article ``preposterous.''

``It's absolutely crazy,'' she told the Associated Press. ``It's just for domestic consumption while this case is being decided on a much higher level.''

The official news media reported Sunday that Daniloff had been formally charged under Article 65 of the criminal code. This carries the death penalty, or a term of seven to 15 years in prison or a labor camp.

Izvestia quotes the indictment as saying that Daniloff ``made use of his status as a foreign correspondent in the Soviet Union to carry out espionage, collecting secret information by various means to be used to the detriment of the national interests of the Soviet Union.''

The article notes that Daniloff ``unwillingly'' signed the document, which changed his status from that of suspect to accused.

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