NEW YORK — A group of Soviet children and East German tourists visited City Hall today and received a tongue-lashing from Mayor Edward Koch, who told the Russians their "government is the pits."
"I don't want to stay in this house one more minute," responded Soviet student Yegor Druzhinin, 14. He said he wanted to be "far, far away from this place."
He was one of a group of 22 children in an international troupe of Soviet and American performers who are members of the Peace Child foundation. The Washington-based group grew out of a U.N. disarmament campaign.
The 12 American and 10 Soviet children have been performing in a musical about peace in the two countries and have scheduled an appearance at the United Nations.
After reading a proclamation heralding this week as "Peace Child Week," the mayor told the children assembled in the rotunda: "This has nothing to do with the children, not the people in the Soviet Union, but I believe their government is the pits."
A short time later the mayor greeted a group of tourists from Halle in East Germany and when they asked his impression of their country he said, "very drab, very gray.
"People did not have the joyful appearance of people in West Berlin," Koch said, after asking permission to speak honestly instead of in "diplomatic niceties."
Koch also criticized the Soviets for their arrest of American reporter Nicholas Daniloff in Moscow and said the action "should not go unanswered."
"I am not" at peace with the Soviet government, Koch said. "City Hall is a place where you tell the truth and speak your mind."
Vladimir Litvinov, a representative of the Soviet Ministry of Culture, and Peace Child President David Woollcombe expressed disappointment and concern over the remarks and canceled a tour of City Hall.