A stalemate continued into the night at Kennedy International Airport in New York at U.S. and Soviet officials wrangled yesterday over the future of Soviet ballerina Ludmila Vlasova, whose ballet star husband defected to this country Thursday.
At issue was whether Vlasova was returning to the Soviet Union under her own free will, or whether she was being forced to return by Soviet officials.
Two State Department officials spent about 20 minutes last night on board the Aeroflot airline talking to Valasova and Soviet officials.
The plane was parked at the Pan American World Airways gate with its doors open and a police car in front of it. The car was later moved.
The State Department officials were trying to get the Soviets to let them speak to the woman in the airline terminal, but the Soviets were said to be balking, according to a spokesman for the New York Port Authority, which operates the airport.
State Department and Immigration and Naturalization Service officials have no jurisdiction inside the Soviet plane.
Orville Schell, attorney of Alexander Godunov, Vlasova's husband, painted a grim picture of the scene at the airport. "Very simply put, we want to talk to her, but the Russians won't let her off the plane," Schnell said. "It's a victory that she's still here.
"We're going to be here for a long, long time."
Acting Secretary of State Warren Christopher had ordered that the 5 p.m. flight to Moscow be detained until U.S. officials could talk to Vlasova in the terminal to determine the conditions of her leaving.
Christopher invoked Rule 215 of the Immigration and Naturalization act, which allows for airplanes to be detained in order to learn if individuals on board are leaving freely.
While the waiting game continued at the airport, behind-the-scenes negotiations reportedly were being conducted in Washington between toplevel State Department officials and their Soviet counterparts.
Vlasova was reported by Reuter News Service to have said last night on the plane. "I love my husband, but he made his decision to stay here, and I made mine to leave."
Earlier in the day, Godunov said he wanted his wife to remain with him in the United States, and appealed to Soviet authorities to let him speak with her.
"We were concerned earlier in the day that she'd be spirited out of the country," said Schell, Godunov's lawyer for the past two days. "We prepared a request for a temporary restraining order to be filed in federal court. But it was never filed, because we received assurance from the State Department that she would not leave the country forcibly tonight."
Schell said that Gudunov had told him by telephone at about 6 p.m. yesterday that his wife was being forced to leave the country by Soviet authorities. "He's all cut up about this," Schell said.
Schell offered no new information as to why Godunov's wife did not seek asylum with him in the first place. "I have no idea why she didn't defect with him," he said. "I have not had time yet to talk about philosophic things."
Schell said he anticipated a meeting of some kind later to resolve the status of Godunov's wife.
"I very much want my wife to stay with me here in the United States," he said in a statement released through his lawyer.
Godunov's request for asylum was quickly granted by immigration officials Thursday and the State Department said he had gone to an unidsclosed location to stay with "private citizens." In defecting he left behind his wife, who is also a soloist with the Bolshoi and on the U.S. tour.
Godunov said Soviet officials had sought a meeting with him to discuss his action.
"I have advised them through the U.S. State Department that I would be willing to do so provided they permit my wife, who is also in the United States, to attend that meeting. So far the Soviet authorities have refused to allow my wife to do so . . ." Godunov said.
"I want to talk with her, for I am certain that she is not being permitted to know all the facts," Godunov said. "I fear they will force her to leave the United States without my seeing her again.
"The Soviet authorities are denying the opportunity of this meeting to both of us," Godunov added.
Schell, a former president of the New York City Bar Association, said the dancer was "visiting with friends in the New York City area."
He said Godunov's first priority was to meet with his wife and then he would try to resume his professional life.
Schell, also a member of the board of directors of the New Yrok City Ballet, "categorically" denied a published story that the dancer had defected without his wife because she was an informer for the KGB, the Soviet secret police.