After the Olympics; Kremlin crackdown?
Moscow — Within three days of the end of the Moscow Olympics, the Kremlin has fired off what Western sources see as two warnings aimed at US correspondents and diplomats in Moscow.
Some sources see it as the start of a new Kremlin crackdown against Americans here in retaliation for the US boycott of the games, and for US opposition to Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
In effect, the warning to correspondents is seen as: "We don't like what you've been writing about us, or the games, or dissidents, and we can harass you or expel you at will."
The warning to diplomats: "You are trying to stir up trouble when you travel around our country, we think the US Embassy ought to expel one or two of the worst cases."
This is how the warnings came:
On Aug. 4, the day after the Olympics ended and the day before he was to leave for the United States to join his family on vacation, Kevin Klose, the Moscow correspondent of the Washington Post, was summoned to the Moscow prosecutor's office as a witness in a legal proceeding.
The documents (delivered by hand) did not specify the kind of case. By giving the address of the Moscow prosecutor's office and of the investigator (Ponomaryev) they did indicate a criminal case. Failure to appear can incur a fine of 50 rubles ($78) or six months' hard labor.
Mr. Klose asked Mr. Ponomaryev by phone what it was about, since he knew of no legal case in which he could be involved. The Soviet official would not give any details, except that it was "an urgent matter" and Mr. Klose should appear at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 5.
Klose explained he was due to leave at 8 a.m. Aug. 5 on an excursion ticket to New York that could not be changed. Ponomaryev offered to let him appear that night before 10 p.m. (after which time, Soviet law states, witnesses cannot be questioned).
After contacting his head office, Klose said he would rather leave as scheduled, and Ponomaryev agreed that he could do so, reserving the right to call him in when he returned Sept. 10. Klose left by air Aug. 5 without incident. He is now in the United States.
Klose arrived in Moscow with his wife and three children in mid-1977, and is due to end his assignment in mid-1981. His children are in Russian schools here. The Soviet press has criticized him recently about alleged ties to the CIA and for writing about reports of strikes in Soviet cities.
The CIA charge is a standard one here, leveled at US correspondents and diplomats alike. Westerners in Moscow saw the Soviet move as an effort to put Mr. Klose under psychological pressure, and to warn both him and his colleagues here they were under renewed surveillance.
In other criticism recently, the newspaper Soviet Russia objected to Olympic Games reporting by the Moscow correspondents of The Christian Science Monitor and the Baltimore Sun as "wicked nonsense."
In February 1977, Associated Press correspondent George Krimsky was expelled for writing about dissidents. Robert Toth of the Los Angeles Times, Christopher Wren of the New York Times, and Peter Osnos of the Washington Post were all criticized after leaving here. Mr. Toth was questioned by the KGB for three days in 1977 about alleged links to dissident Anatoly Shcharansky, who was tried and jailed in the summer of 1978.
The warning to US diplomats came in an article Aug. 6 in the national weekly organ of the Writers' Union, the Literary Gazette, often used for KGB attacks on Westerners.
The article said that US diplomat Judy Mandel and her husband James (who works for the State Department's Foreign Buildings Office in Moscow) had said in a private home in Uzbekistan recently that an atomic bomb should have been dropped on Iran long ago.
The article was highly critical of the Mandels' behavior during their visit.
The US Embassy called the allegations "outlandish." It said it was not the first time US diplomats had been "vilified with lies and half-truths in the Soviet press," and it regretted such "crude attempts" to "interfere with the legitimate activity of diplomats and to discourage Soviet citizens from contact with American diplomats."