The wife of Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov will probably come to her family's Newton home to receive medical treatment if she is granted permission to leave the Soviet Union, her son, Alexei Semyonov, said last night.
A West German newspaper with reliable sources in Moscow reported earlier this week that Yelena Bonner had been told she "could fly immediately to wherever she wants." Victor Louis, a Soviet journalist who has been a reliable source of information in the past, confirmed the report.
Semyonov said his mother will likely receive heart surgery to treat a condition she has developed from three heart attacks and also undergo treatment for glaucoma if she comes to the United States. This would mark the fourth time since 1975 that Bonner has been allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.
Semyonov said the family yesterday received two encouraging reports about her possible permission to leave the Soviet Union and said her return appears a "strong possibility." He refused yesterday to disclose the nature of those reports.
Sakharov, a 1975 Nobel Peace Prize winner and principal developer of the Soviet nuclear capability, has been an outspoken critic of Soviet policy and was exiled in 1980. Bonner was forced to join him in exile four years later.
A report by the BBC that Bonner had arrived in Vienna yesterday was incorrect, her daughter, Tatiana Yankelevich, said in a public statement yesterday.
Sakharov, the most prominent human rights leader in the Soviet Union, has fasted several times to press demands that his wife be allowed to receive medical treatment abroad. Bonner was last allowed to leave in 1979.
Soviet officials have denied Sakharov permission to leave the country on the grounds that he has vital state security information.
The West German newspaper Bild reported that Sakharov was in the middle of another hunger strike when Bonner received the exit visa this week.
Semyonov said he expects Bonner to return to the Soviet Union after she receives the treatment.
The pending exit visa is probably a move "to prepare public opinion in favor of the Soviet Union before the summit [conference between Reagan and Gorbachev in Geneva this November]," said Baird Professor of History Richard Pipes.
"Gorbachev would be an idiot--and he's not--if he would not make some kind of gesture before the summit," said Marshall Goldman, associate director of Harvard's Russian Research Center. Goldman said one Soviet dissident who had tried for nearly a decade to leave the Soviet Union was also recently released in preparation for the up-coming summit conference in Geneva.