MOSCOW — The Soviet Union on Monday accused American reporter Nicholas Daniloff of engaging in widespread espionage and said he had solicited secret data on Soviet forces in Afghanistan and passed it on to the CIA.
The accusations, printed in the official government newspaper, Izvestia, were dismissed as "preposterous" by Daniloff's wife, Ruth.
The publication of the new accusations indicated that the Soviets are stepping up their propaganda campaign against Daniloff, the imprisoned correspondent for the magazine U.S. News & World Report, and will proceed with the case despite President Reagan's personal assurance to Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev that he is not a spy.
A Soviet source with close ties to the KGB, the secret police and intelligence agency, said that Daniloff's arrest is linked directly to the FBI's arrest on Aug. 23 in New York of Gennady F. Zakharov, a Soviet physicist working for the United Nations.
He said the FBI trapped Zakharov with the aid of an agent provocateur and that the KGB felt it had to even the score. Daniloff has been held in a Moscow prison since Aug. 30, after he was given an envelope by a Soviet acquaintance, known as Misha, in the Lenin Hills section of Moscow. The KGB said the envelope contained top-secret maps of Soviet military installations and other material.
Case 'Will be Cut Short'
A senior Soviet official said he expects an early resolution of the Daniloff case, even though a formal charge of espionage was filed against him Sunday at Lefortovo prison where Daniloff is being held.
"It will be cut short because it gets in the way of too many things going on," the official said, referring to efforts to improve Soviet-American relations and to preparations for a summit meeting between Gorbachev and President Reagan.
Reagan, in his first public comment on the case, said Monday that Daniloff's detention was "an outrage" that could become a "major obstacle" for U.S.-Soviet relations.
The article in Izvestia on Monday said that Misha, Daniloff's acquaintance, had also been arrested by the KGB. But Ruth Daniloff said in a telephone interview that there is "no doubt whatsoever" that Misha, whom she described as a 27-year-old teacher from Frunze, the capital of the Soviet republic of Kirghizia, was cooperating with the KGB.
The Izvestia article said that Daniloff, who was finishing a five-year tour of duty in Moscow, was "connected with U.S. special services," which is Moscow jargon for the CIA, and "engaged in espionage activity by their orders."
Linked to Expelled Diplomat
Izvestia linked Daniloff to Paul M. Stombaugh, a U.S. diplomat accused of being a CIA agent and expelled from the Soviet Union in June, 1985. As evidence, it cited a note, allegedly given to a Soviet citizen by Stombaugh, that said: "We would like to assure you that the letter delivered by you to the journalist on Jan. 24 got to the designated person." Izvestia claimed Daniloff was the journalist mentioned in the letter.
The article said that, on the day he was arrested, Daniloff met covertly with Misha at a subway stop, then walked with him through a park and halted under a willow tree.
It quoted Daniloff as saying: "I passed over to Misha several books, and he gave me a black parcel with which I was apprehended. In the investigator's office I saw that apart from newspaper clippings, it also contained photos, diagrams, maps which indicated military objects and other information of a military character. For me, it proved an unexpected and unpleasant revelation."
Izvestia scoffed at Daniloff's expression of surprise. It said he had been using his "journalistic cover" to get secret information for the U.S. government.
The newspaper quoted Misha to back up its case that Daniloff had long been engaged in spying.
"My contacts with Daniloff continued" after they first met in 1982, Misha said, "and more and more I came to the conclusion that he is not the person he pretends to be. I had the impression he was only interested in secret information."
'Trivial Detective Story'
"Like in a typical or trivial detective story, Daniloff used secret places, special marks and means of communication," Izvestia said, saying there was "no need for more proof" that he was a spy.
The article implied that Daniloff pressed Misha to supply photographs of Soviet military equipment used in Afghanistan, home addresses and work places of discharged veterans of the Afghan war and data on the strength of military units being sent to Afghanistan, where the Soviet Union has been engaged in a war against Afghan resistance forces since 1979.
"The impression was created," Izvestia said, "that Daniloff was not interested in anything but classified information, which, upon receiving, he glorified the Western way of life and denigrated everything Soviet."
It said the parcel contained part of a map of Afghanistan, with hand-written marks showing deployment of Soviet army formations, and 26 black-and-white photos of military equipment, army officers and enlisted men.
Further, it said, a number of witnesses have implicated Daniloff in other acts of spying.
Ruth Daniloff, who was promised a third meeting with her husband today, described the Izvestia article as "a third-rate detective story."