Russian Refuseniks Still Denied Exit Visas
MOSCOW (AP) _ Outdated Soviet secrecy laws are keeping more than 150 Russian scientists from leaving the country, human rights activists say.
Most of them are Jews and many have families living abroad, said Leonid Stonov, a spokesman for the American Jewish Organization for Human Rights.
He told a news conference Thursday that the grounds given for refusing exit visas to most of the scientists was that they possess state secrets, but others were prevented from leaving Russia ″for no reason.″
Stonov said the security, defense and industrial ministries had blocked emigration for at least 150 Russians. He reported similar refusals in other former Soviet republics but gave no specifics.
Soviet restrictions on Jewish emigration hampered relations with the West during the Cold War and ″refuseniks″ became symbols of the Communist regime’s harsh policies. Emigration rules were relaxed after the Soviet collapse and most Russians now can travel more easily.
President Clinton told President Boris Yeltsin at their April summit in Canada that he had discussed with members of Congress repealing an amendment that denies free trade privileges to countries that restrict emigration.
Clinton said he asked Yeltsin if emigration-seekers had been turned down and Yeltsin replied ″he doesn’t think so.″
Foreign Ministry spokesman Viktor Gribanov said most people denied exit visas were under criminal investigation or had financial liabilities. He said people with state secrets may be refused visas ″for a certain period of time.″
Gribanov said the courts are open to those who feel they were unfairly denied visas, adding, ″I, personally, have not heard of any court cases.″
Computer programmer Anatoly Solovyov, whose wife and two sons now live in Israel, told reporters he has been refused permission to leave since March 1990, although his work involved no classified information.
″I consider it inhuman to separate families, ″ he said in a prepared statement.