PONTIAC, MICH., OCT. 16 -- Husband-and-wife ice skaters have sought political asylum after the last performance of the "Moscow on Ice" tour, saying ethnic persecution is worsening in the Soviet Union.
Andrei Torossian, 23, the star of the traveling ice show, and Irina Kortchach, 27, fled on Saturday night after a show in Auburn Hills, Oakland County Prosecutor Richard Thompson said at a news conference here today.
Torossian, an Armenian born in Soviet Georgia, and Kortchach, who is Jewish, said through an interpreter they believed they were in danger in the Soviet Union.
Kortchach said through the interpreter that she was beaten twice, once while shopping with her mother, simply because she looked Jewish. After the second attack, Kortchach said she had plastic surgery on her nose.
"This continued harassment made life uncomfortable, to say the least," she said.
Torossian said recent political and economic changes in the Soviet Union have been accompanied by increasing hostility among the country's various ethnic groups.
"Now all the anti-minority feelings are being expressed in many ways, including the physical way," he said.
Officials had learned earlier that the couple planned to defect, and a police car was waiting after the performance in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills. It was the last stop on a three-month tour.
Soviet tour organizers didn't try to interfere, said Auburn Hills Public Safety Director Dennis McGee.