MOSCOW — Andrei D. Sakharov, the most prominent Soviet dissident, told French Premier Jacques Chirac today that the Soviet Union has stopped releasing political prisoners.
Sakharov, the 1975 Nobel Peace laureate, met Chirac in an antechamber at the Soviet Academy of Sciences. Chirac spoke at the academy before holding four hours of Kremlin talks with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev.
"We are very preoccupied by the fact that the process of releasing prisoners of conscience has been interrupted," Sakharov, a nuclear physicist and academy member, told Chirac during their 15-minute meeting.
He implored the French leader to press Kremlin officials on human rights issues, including the treatment of people still jailed for political offenses.
Sakharov himself returned to Moscow on Dec. 23 after the Kremlin lifted his internal exile of almost seven years. He did not say today when or why the Soviets stopped freeing prisoners.
Chirac began his three-day visit to the Soviet Union on Thursday. He was expected to raise humanitarian issues in his discussions with Gorbachev.
Gorbachev received Chirac in a small office decorated with portraits of Karl Marx and Vladimir I. Lenin, founder of the Soviet state.
Asked by reporters if he welcomed the chance to hold talks with Chirac, Gorbachev answered: "Indeed, we are starting the meeting right now."
The talks began at 10:30 a.m., and ended about four hours later. Neither French nor Soviets made any immediate comment on their substance.
At a Kremlin dinner Thursday night, Chirac noted France's attachment to human rights as laid down by the French Revolution, and said "much remains to be done" by Moscow to meet its international commitments on human rights.