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Soviet Sailor Says He Likes Taiwan

November 2, 1988 GMT

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ A Soviet sailor captured 34 years ago by Taiwan said Wednesday he enjoys living here and denied he had been tortured.

″I have made many friends. Taiwan is prosperous and people here are rich. I like this place.″ Vsevolod Vladihirovich Lopatyuk said on an evening television show, speaking in Chinese and Russian.

In an interview with the military-run China Television System, he said the Taiwanese government had granted him and three colleagues asylum and provided them with money, housing and entertainment.

Lopatyuk said President Lee Teng-hui had approved his request to become a Taiwan resident, and he soon will start teaching Russian at a language center.

Lopatyuk, 60, lives in a secluded compound protected by guards in Ilan, a fishing village about 18 miles southwest of Taipei.

He said he missed his parents and that although they are in the Soviet Union, ″they live in my heart forever.″

Lopatyuk denied charges by the other sailors that they had been captured and tortured in prison.

When the other sailors - Vladimir Sablin, Boris Pianov, and Vladimir Kniga -returned to Moscow in August, they told reporters they had lived in horror during their long stay in Taiwan.

″They were made to look for days at hot white electric bulbs, wild dances of the prison guards on prostrate bodies of the prisoners whose feet and arms joints were squeezed tight,″ the offical Soviet news agency Tass reported.

Lopatyuk denied the Tass report and said the four stayed in the compound together and were treated nicely.

The four were among the crew of the tanker Tuapse that was sailing for mainland China with a load of kerosene when Taiwanese authorities seized it on June 23, 1954.

Taiwan officials have said 29 Soviet crewmen were released in 1955 and by 1958, nine more had left for the United States and Brazil after being granted asylum in those countries.

Lopatyuk said he and his three colleagus had decided to stay in Taiwan after U.S. officials rejected their immigration requests in 1954. He said he had no idea why the three wanted to leave Taiwan after 34 years.

Taiwan officials said the government respected the sailors’ will and helped them fly back to Moscow.

The Nationalist government, which fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing a civil war to Communists on the mainland, maintains a staunch anti-communist policy. Taiwan has no diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.