MOSCOW — The wife of imprisoned American reporter Nicholas Daniloff said Tuesday that he suggested to her that faked evidence is being assembled to support spy charges against him and that he expects "a long haul" before he is released.
Daniloff's wife, Ruth, told an outdoor news conference near Lefortovo Prison, where her husband is being held, that he is considering whether to refuse to answer questions in an effort to protect his Soviet sources.
He relayed a warning to other American correspondents working in Moscow that they, too, could be charged with espionage, she said.
From Soviet Acquaintance
A veteran correspondent for U.S. News & World Report, Daniloff was formally charged Sunday after being seized by agents of the KGB, the secret police and intelligence agency, with secret materials that he said were planted with him by a Soviet acquaintance.
His wife, making her third visit to the prison since Daniloff was arrested on Aug. 30, said he looked drawn and felt isolated. He has been interrogated about four hours a day, she said.
"I think he thinks it will be a long haul, but he thinks that things are escalating rather dangerously," she told reporters. "You know he wouldn't like to see it (his arrest) torpedo the summit or torpedo U.S.-Soviet relations."
This was a reference to plans, still not firm, for a summit meeting later in the year of President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard A. Shevardnadze and Secretary of State George P. Shultz are to meet in Washington next week to lay the final plans for the summit.
She quoted Daniloff as saying: "This thing is getting out of hand. We have to resolve it as soon as possible or it's going to jeopardize some very, very important things."
Daniloff is "very, very gratified," she said, by Reagan's personal assurance to Gorbachev that Daniloff is not a spy and by the Reagan Administration's pressing for his freedom.
No Gorbachev Reaction
So far, Gorbachev has ignored the request, and the Soviet news media have depicted Daniloff as a spy for the CIA who engaged in widespread espionage and obtained military secrets while working undercover as a Moscow correspondent.
Daniloff's wife said he told her that his KGB interrogators appear intent on asking him about all his reporting and writing since he arrived in the Soviet Union in 1981.
"Then he speculated they will build a case based on his journalistic activities--a quite normal gathering of information--that they can doctor and twist," she said. "He didn't use the words doctor and twist, but I read between the lines what he was trying to tell me."
Ruth Daniloff said she and her husband were able to have a frank exchange outside the hearing of a KGB investigator and a Soviet translator in the meeting room.
"He gave me to understand they were compiling false evidence," she said.
Soviet Law Cited
She said she advised her husband that Soviet law permits defendants to refuse to answer questions or refuse to cooperate at all.
"He doesn't think it's a good idea just to go and sit in his cell and not talk to them at all, but he realizes that anytime he doesn't want to answer a question, he doesn't have to," she said.
"The one area where he is very vulnerable is his Soviet contacts. Every time I see him he is terribly upset about this, about what this (his arrest) will do to them, whether they are going to be hauled in and coerced to give false evidence," his wife said.
The prison regimen for the 52-year-old correspondent has improved, she said. After he complained of being served only soup and kasha, a buckwheat cereal, a special diet was ordered for him, including two glasses of milk a day, she said.
In addition, she said, his request for two hours of exercise in the open air, instead of one, was granted. And she said that prison doctors have provided him with special medication for high blood pressure.
"They are obviously bending over backwards to make themselves appear terribly civilized after having done this horrible act of kidnaping him as a political pawn," she said.
'Whole Thing Is Very Nasty'
"He said the whole thing is very nasty when you are alone in your cell and people are talking to you about the death sentence. . . . "
Under Soviet law, conviction for spying can mean a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, exile in Siberia, or execution.
Daniloff's wife was accompanied on the visit by Roger J. Daley, the U.S. consul general in Moscow.
Daley said he tried to make Daniloff aware of diplomatic efforts to win his release. "He's interested in being released as quickly as possible," Daley said when asked if Daniloff would agree to a swap for Gennady F. Zakharov, a Soviet U.N. employee who was indicted Tuesday for spying.
In the past, Daniloff has said he opposed such an exchange because he considers himself a hostage, not a spy.
"We expected that (Zakharov's indictment), and the Soviets have manipulated the two cases so they are the same," Ruth Daniloff said. "I suppose now the negotiations will begin."
Meanwhile, Soviet Foreign Ministry spokesman Gennady I. Gerasimov indicated that a diplomatic solution is still possible in the Daniloff case. "If both sides made some effort, it would be possible to find a mutual solution to the problem," he told a news conference.
"I can only say that Soviet-American relations should not be held a hostage to this case of Daniloff, which is not important," Gerasimov said.