Murmuring "Mama, I'm back," Bolshoi Ballerina Ludmilla Vlasova returned to the Soviet Union today with tears for her waiting mother and new denunciations of the United States for the three-day Kennedy Airport impasse over her status.
Vlasova, wearing a trim black jumpsuit and open-necked red shirt, lost her composure as she descended from the Aeroflot jetliner to the tarmac where her bouquet-carrying mother and a crowd of Soviet officials and Western newsmen awaited her.
As tears welled across her heavily made-up cheeks, the dancer buried herself in the iron embrace of her mother, Alexandra Drozhdina. "It's nothing, nothing. Please, mama, don't cry," Vlasova said as the officials and reporters pressed around her and 11 young women from the Sheremetyevo Airport staff milled about with bouquets of gladioli for the dancer and the 11-member jetliner crew.
For the first time today, the Soviet agency Tass referred to the defection of her husband, Bolshoi star Alexander Godunov. But it cast Godunov's move in a conspiratorial light. In a long dispatch, Tass asserted that Vlasova had refused U.S. invitations to leave the plane at Kennedy to talk privately with them "because she did not want to find herself in a situation similar to that of her husband, who had disappeared shortly before under circumstances which are not yet clear."
Vlasova refused to speak in detail with the 30 Western reporters who were on hand, beyond saying she was "very tired, but I feel fine."
But in an interview with a Soviet reporter that was recorded at the airport, she declared, "I consider this action to be arbitrary because the Americans occupied our plane by force.
"They got inside by force . . . They had guns and handcuffs to guard me. . . . It was just madness."
Vlasova's return was carefully arranged for maximum propaganda value, with Soviet television and radio crews and many Soviet reporters on hand to record it. The aircraft taxied right up to the arrivals building and, within moments of her embrace with her mother, Soviet radio was retelling the scene in bulletins that were repeated through the day.
The 36-year-old ballerina, who has been the focal point of a bizarre bilateral episode that began last Friday, was swept through the airport in just 12 minutes, then bundled into a tan Volga sedan with her mother, an aunt, a nephew and an unidentified official, and whisked away. She did not go through customs, a rigid formality for most Soviets returning from abroad, although the 53 other passengers who had been on the Ilyushin 62 airliner with her through the ordeal were required to go through all the formalities.
These passengers, who declined to identify themselves, told several Western reporters they passed the long hours in the plane by playing cards, organizing a chess tournament, and presenting nightly impromptu skits. One part of the jetliner's cabin was set aside for the 13 children who happened to be aboard the flight when it was prevented from leaving Kennedy Airport last Friday.
U.S. officials intervened then, stopping the plane from taking off, on grounds that they had not been able to talk to Vlasova privately about whether she wanted to join her husband, who sought asylum last Wednesday. The defection of the 29-year-old ballet star was the first from the Bolshoi, although major stars of Leningrad's Kirov Ballet -- Mikhail Baryshnikov, Natalia Makarova and Rudolf Nureyev -- have defected.
It took three days of negotiations before the Soviets and Americans could agree on the terms of the interview the Americans wanted with Vlasova. When it finally occured yesterday Vlasova told the U.S. officials that she wanted to return to the Soviet Union.
Vlasova, in her interview with a correspondent from Moscow Radio, made no mention of her husband or his defection. The dancer's mother Drozhdina, said she was "indignant" over the treatment of her daughter.
The Soviet media has given very prominent coverage to the episode, accusing the United States of an illegal action. But the Soviets have steadfastly described the sequence of events without fully disclosing Godunov's defection. The media has cast the episode solely in the light of a deliberate provocation by U.S. intelligence agencies, called here the "special services." Tass said today that the U.S. attempt to entice or bully Vlasova into renouncing the Soviet Union collapsed in the face of the dancer's unshakeable allegiance to her motherland.
The government newspaper Izvestia tonight sharply condemned U.S. handling of the incident, declaring that "certain special services in the United States managed with the connivance of other circles to threaten the whole complex of Soviet-U.S. political and interstate relations."
"Such a clearcut and principled stand eventually compelled the U.S. government to look for a way out of the unseemly situation in which it had landed through its own fault," Tass asserted.
For the Soviets, the episode involving Vlasova, who has been painted as a martyr, has given them an opportunity for propaganda rewards of significant dimension.
Although President Carter reportedly played a role during the airport negotiations, the Soviets so far have made no direct mention of White House participation. But summarizing the episode, Tass concluded, "The provocation at Kennedy Airport does not do credit to those who organized it nor [does it] add authority to those who sanctioned it."