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Daniloff in Frankfurt: 'It Is Wonderful to Be Back'

September 30, 1986|WILLIAM TUOHY | Times Staff Writer

FRANKFURT — American journalist Nicholas Daniloff, freed Monday under a complex arrangement negotiated by the United States and Soviet Union, arrived here tonight from Moscow, declaring, "It is wonderful to be back in the West."

Accompanied by his wife Ruth, the 51-year-old foreign correspondent said, "I am very grateful to the U.S. government and the people for what they have done for me to be here tonight.

"I leave the Soviet Union more in sorrow than in anger," he added. "The KGB (which arrested him on Aug. 30 when a Soviet acquaintance handed him a package in a Moscow park) did not punish me. They punished themselves."

Daniloff, a correspondent for the past 5 1/2 years in Moscow for the magazine U.S. News & World Report, was arrested and held for 13 days in Lefortovo prison.

He was seized in Moscow several days after Russian physicist Gennady F. Zakharov was arrested in New York by the FBI on charges of spying for the Soviet Union.

Since then, Daniloff's case has threatened to jeopardize a summit meeting between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.

Daniloff was asked whether his release was part of a deal involving the exchange of Zakharov, and he answered: "I cannot tell you anything about other arrangements. All I know is that I am free and very grateful and delighted."

Daniloff thanked Reagan, Secretary of State George P. Shultz and other U.S. officials "for dotting all the i's that permitted me to be here tonight."

But, again declaring his innocence of the espionage charges filed against him, he said, "The case was fabricated against me for the narrow, cynical purpose of giving the Soviet Union some political leverage to obtain the release of Zakharov."

Daniloff arrived on at Frankfurt at 8:55 p.m. local time aboard a Lufthansa commercial jet, the most convenient flight after his release in Moscow earlier Monday.

The reporter planned to stay overnight in Frankfurt at the U.S. Consulate and is scheduled to take a Pan Am flight for Washington today.

In his remarks at Frankfurt airport, Daniloff avoided saying anything of substance when he was met by a huge crush of print and television reporters. He was expected to reveal more of his ordeal and the background of his arrest in Washington at a news conference attended by the editors of U.S. News & World Report.

In Frankfurt, Daniloff was met by U.S. Ambassador Richard R. Burt.

His wife Ruth, also 51, who had visited him in prison and acted as a spokesman to the outside world for him, held up a white T-shirt with the inscription: "Free Nick Daniloff."

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