MOSCOW — The director of a fund to aid political prisoners returned to Moscow on Wednesday after four years' confinement in a Siberian labor camp and said he was forced to agree to emigrate in exchange for his freedom.
Sergei Khodorovich, 46, still dressed in a blue prison uniform, was hugged and kissed by his wife, Tatanya, and 14-year-old son, Igor, at Moscow's Vunukovo Airport after arriving from Siberia on a domestic flight.
About half a dozen friends showered Khodorovich with roses, tulips and hyacinths.
"My health is okay," Khodorovich said. "They have been feeding me well for the past two months so, of course, I'm feeling better."
North of Arctic Circle
Khodorovich, who has been imprisoned since 1983 in a labor camp 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, said his family will emigrate.
"It was a condition of my release," he said. "When I was in the camp, representatives of the Committee for State Security (KGB) came to my cell and made me the offer, so I agreed."
A Russian Orthodox Christian, Khodorovich was director of the fund established by exiled Soviet writer Alexander A. Solzhenitsyn to aid political prisoners and their families.
Khodorovich was sentenced to three years of "strict regime" for anti-Soviet slander and was arrested again at the end of his term and given another three years of strict regime for "violations of camp regulations."
Khodorovich's release comes five weeks after Soviet officials announced that about 140 political prisoners have been pardoned under Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's policy of "democratization" of Soviet society. The officials said that another 140 cases are under review.
Khodorovich was the 87th political prisoner known to have been released from prison or labor camp according to a list compiled by dissident physicist Andrei D. Sakharov and his wife, Yelena Bonner.
"When he went in four years ago, he was a young man with black hair--now he is totally gray," said one woman. "He is already an old man."
Khodorovich's wife was called in by the KGB in January and told to fill out forms for her family to emigrate. She said they had never wanted to leave their country and did not know where they wanted to go.
"We will discuss it together now," she said. "They told me to come and see them when my husband returned."