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Israelis' Visit to Moscow Spurs Emigration Rumors

October 30, 1985|From Times Wire Services

MOSCOW — Western diplomats said today that two Israelis recently visited Moscow on official business, spurring speculation that a dramatic increase in the number of Jewish emigrants might be imminent.

The reports came as the Reagan Administration confirmed today that Yelena Bonner, wife of dissident Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov, has been given permission to leave the Soviet Union for medical treatment abroad.

"We have reliable information that Mrs. Bonner has been granted permission to leave the Soviet Union," State Department spokesman Bernard Kalb told reporters in Washington.

No Comment From Moscow

Moscow has made no official comment on the matter, but Soviet journalist Viktor Louis, who has acted as a conduit for information in the Sakharov case, told reporters in Moscow that Bonner had been told four days ago she could go abroad for medical treatment.

Western diplomats said one of the recent Israeli visitors to Moscow reportedly represented the Israeli national airline El Al. The visit fed recent rumors that the Soviet Union would allow a large number of Jewish emigrants to be taken out in an airlift.

"Nobody from El Al has visited Moscow," airline spokesman Nahman Klieman said in a denial from Jerusalem. "No one from El Al was part of any discussions on a plan to fly Jews out of Russia."

Need for Air Service

"If you don't have any migrants or tourists, you don't need any air service," said one Western diplomat. "Perhaps they are planning some charter flights."

The diplomat noted that the two nations, which severed diplomatic relations in 1967, do not have a bilateral air agreement "and don't need one."

However, he also cautioned that the Israeli visits could have had a "quite mundane" purpose with long-term implications, rather than a sudden increase in exit permits for Jews.

"The rumors are growing in the pre-summit hothouse atmosphere," said another Western diplomat, who asked not to be identified. But he said a dramatic move by the Kremlin could not be ruled out.

From a high of 51,000 Soviet emigrants in 1979, the number fell steadily to 922 last year. Through the first nine months of this year it stood at 997.

The second Israeli representative to visit Moscow was identified as a specialist in property claims.

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