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Shcharansky Will Be Freed in Swap Today, U.S. Says

February 11, 1986|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

WEST BERLIN — U.S. officials confirmed Monday that Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky will be in a group of about 10 people to be freed today as part of an East-West spy exchange.

The transfer is expected to take place at the Glienicke Bridge, which spans the Havel River between the American sector of West Berlin and Potsdam in East Germany.

Shcharansky, 37, a Jewish dissident convicted as an agent of the CIA, is reported to have arrived in East Berlin on Monday, preparatory to the exchange.

Richard R. Burt, the U.S. ambassador to West Germany, was in West Berlin on Monday night and is expected to take part in the exchange. It reportedly will take place late this morning midway between the eastern and western terminals of the bridge.

Several other such incidents have taken place on the Glienicke Bridge, among them the exchange of U-2 reconnaissance pilot Francis Gary Powers for Col. Rudolf Abel, the Soviet spy. Today's exchange will take place a day after the 24th anniversary of the Powers-Abel swap. Wolfgang Vogel, an East German lawyer involved in the arrangements for the Powers-Abel exchange, has also figured in the present arrangements, and he too is expected to be on hand today.

According to reports in the West German press, Shcharansky's wife, Avital, has left her home in Jerusalem and is waiting at the Israeli Embassy in Bonn. However, a spokesman for the Assn. for the Release of Anatoly Shcharansky in Jerusalem said Avital Shcharansky is still in Israel and will not leave until she gets definite news of her husband's release.

It was not clear whether Shcharansky would be made available for questioning here by representatives of the Western press before being taken to a secret location for debriefing and a meeting with his wife. In the mid-1970s, before his arrest, Shcharansky acted as unofficial interpreter for reporters in Moscow. He is fluent in English.

Soviet prosecutors charged him with passing information to Western reporters about the Soviet defense industry, though no details were ever made public. He was convicted in 1978 and sentenced to 13 years' imprisonment.

According to West German sources, convicted spies from both sides are to be released in today's exchange. Except for Shcharansky's, no names will be made public until after the operation is completed, they said.

Some reports said that Shcharansky will be turned over to Western representatives moments before the others are exchanged in an effort to distance his release from those of convicted spies. This would be in line with Soviet acquiescence to U.S. insistence that, unlike the others, Shcharansky was not a spy and had been jailed solely for his dissident activity.

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