PARIS — Ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev said today he has been cleared to return to the Soviet Union for the first time since his 1961 defection so he can pay a brief visit to his mother.
Nureyev was granted a 48-hour visa after intervention by French Culture Minister Francois Leotard, and an official from Leotard's Cabinet will accompany him, officials said.
"After 26 years far from my country, I am returning to the Soviet Union to see my family," said Nureyev, who has been trying to visit his native country for several years. "My mother is very old and suffering. I am very moved."
There was no immediate indication of when he would go to Moscow. An official of the Paris Opera, where Nureyev works as director of ballet, said he would be leaving "in the next few days."
Nureyev defected when he incurred the displeasure of Soviet cultural leaders because of his "dangerous individualism" and was ordered to return to the the Soviet Union while his company, the Kirov Ballet, was touring France.
Instead, Nureyev broke loose from his detainers at Le Bourget Airport in Paris, and sought asylum in France.
He later became the principal partner of Dame Margot Fonteyn in Britain's Royal Ballet.
He gained Austrian citizenship in 1982.
Earlier this year, Soviet officials excluded a portrait of Nureyev from an exhibition of American paintings in Leningrad and Moscow executed by the Wyeth family of artists.
Observers said Moscow's change of mind appeared consistent with Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev's liberalization policies, but they could not comment on exactly how Nureyev's visa was finally granted.