MOSCOW — An Armenian activist said he was forced to fly to Ethiopia under KGB guard after his expulsion from the Soviet Union last week, but he won a promise that his family could join him in exile in the West.
Paruyr Ayrikyan told reporters by telephone from Addis Ababa that he is being cared for by the local Armenian community and has been assured refuge in the United States for himself and nine family members.
The 39-year-old activist, who played a prominent role in a recent struggle between Armenians and Azerbaijanis for control of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, said he had not seen or spoken to his wife since his March 25 arrest.
The couple have three children.
Ayrikyan said he will never abandon his efforts to return to his native Armenia but that he wants his family with him in exile.
He said he has been told by U.S. and Ethiopian authorities that he will be able to leave Addis Ababa in a few days and will stay with relatives in France until his family can join him--then move to Los Angeles where they have other relatives.
The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa said Ayrikyan was in good health and has been granted a visa. Ayrikyan met with U.S. officials Wednesday to start preparing for his settlement in the United States.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles Redman said Ayrikyan's wife and family in Moscow also requested resettlement in the United States, and the U.S. Embassy in Moscow is processing them as refugees.
Ayrikyan's expulsion last week followed the Kremlin's rejection of an appeal by Armenians for annexation of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the Caucasus Mountains.
Helped Western Reporters
He gained notoriety and official ire earlier this year when he provided information to Western reporters in Moscow about the Armenian efforts to annex Nagorno-Karabakh.
Armenians make up more than three-quarters of the disputed region's population of 162,000, and they had complained of discrimination at the hands of their Azerbaijani leaders.
After a harsh speech by Gorbachev warning about the dangers of nationalism in this multi-ethnic nation, the Kremlin leadership decreed July 18 that Nagorno-Karabakh will stay in the Azerbaijan republic.
Tass reported on July 20 that Ayrikyan had been expelled after he "created a crisis in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh."