MOSCOW — Wade Roberts, a U.S. Army private from Riverside, Calif., who defected to the Soviet Union in April, returned to the West today, the Tass press agency reported.
Roberts, 22, had been trying to arrange to leave the Soviet Union for several weeks, the agency said. It said he left Moscow aboard a Soviet Aeroflot plane bound for Frankfurt, West Germany.
Tass said Roberts was accompanied by Petra Neumann, his West German girlfriend who helped him slip across the border into East Germany in the trunk of a rented car seven months ago.
Roberts, who was assigned to a post in West Germany when he defected to the Soviet Embassy in East Berlin, said two weeks ago he was prepared to go home to face trial on charges of desertion.
Since then, he had been in contact with consular officials at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and said he was charged with being AWOL but not with the more serious crime of desertion.
The Tass dispatch, however, indicated Roberts did not intend to surrender to U.S. authorities.
"I don't think I will be able to go back to the U.S.A.," he said just before his departure. "I know that I will be arrested there. That's why in West Germany I'd like to clarify these questions with representatives from America."
Neumann, 24, is expecting a baby any day, and Tass said the couple indicated her pregnancy was the primary factor in their decision to leave.
"There are no political motives," the agency quoted Roberts as saying. "Our marriage is not registered, and she's pregnant. Besides, her husband is in West Germany, and in Ashkrabad, there were difficulties with registering the birth of our child."
Roberts and Neumann were living in Ashkrabad, capital of the Central Asian republic of Turkmenia, before their return to Moscow several weeks ago.
Tass said Neumann told its correspondent that conditions in Soviet hospitals are drastically different from those in German hospitals.
"I don't think I'm leaving the U.S.S.R. forever," Tass quoted Roberts as saying. "I have plans to come back here again."