Soviet authorities moved today to halt a flurry of recent hunger-strike protests by announcing they have refused exit permits to two fasting Russians who seek to join their American wives in the United States.
In an unusual move, Sergei Fadeyev, deputy chief of the Soviet visas office, invited foreign correspondents to his headquarters to make the announcement and also to accuse the U.S. Embassy in Moscow of having encouraged protests by Soviet citizens.
Fadeyev mentioned a luncheon in December, hosted by U.S. Ambassador Arthur Hartman, for 20 Russians seeking to join their spouses in the United States.
Speaking about contacts between the Russians involved and American diplomats and journalists here, Fadeyev said: "No one objects to contacts, help and support, but in this case, to judge by events here and publications in the West, they have a special purpose not at all friendly to the Soviet Union and amounting to direct interference in its internal affairs."
U.S. Charge d'Affaires Warren Zimmermann lodged a protest with the Soviet Foreign Ministry, rejecting the interference charge and noting that the Soviet Union is a signatory of the 1975 Helsinki final agreement that calls on governments to aid family reunifications.
A spokesman for the embassy, Franklin Tonini, said the United States would continue to show interest in and concern for spouses of American citizens.
The decision not to grant exit visas to the two Russians seeking to emigrate was described by Fadeyev as being motivated by "reasons of state." The two are Sergei Petrov, 29, who was in his 38th day of his fast, and Yuri Balovlenkov, 33, who ended a 41-day hunger strike on June 21 after being promised an exit visa but who began a new fast five days ago to protest the pace of bureaucratic procedures involved.
Fadeyev said the two men could reapply for emigration in six months and "we are ready to reexamine their statements favorably if possible." He asserted that the men's wives could come to live temporarily in Moscow.
Both Petrov and Balovlenkov vowed today to continue their protest. Petrov, a free-lance photographer whose wife, Virginia Hurt Johnson, of Roanoke, Va., is a law student in North Carolina, said, "We will see who is more stubborn."
Balovlenkov, a computer programmer whose wife, Elena, is a nurse in Baltimore, reported on June 21 that the authorities had promised him a visa. He began his first hunger strike along with four other Soviet citizens seeking to join their foreign spouses. Initially, the authorities yielded by allowing one of them, Andrei Frolov, 51, to join his wife in Chicago. Another member of the group, Iosif Kiblitsky, 36, has received a visa to join his West German wife.
Two women hunger strikers, Tatyana Lozansky, 29, whose husband is in the United States, and Tatyana Azure, 29, married to a French citizen, have been promised permission to emigrate and have abandoned their protest.
At the press conference in the visa office, Fadeyev asserted that the lunch for the 20 Soviets hosted by the American ambassador in December had led to a joint action by the group and presumably to hunger strikes.
Fadeyev produced a letter that he said was written by the father of one of the Russians who was at the lunch, Tatyana Rubin, 25, accusing the ambassador of interference "in family matters and Soviet internal affairs." Fadeyev also said that Rubin had not applied to emigrate and join her husband in the United States.
Embassy spokesman Tonini said the U.S. consular section has an application filed by Rubin "stating her desire to go to the United States."
The government news agency Tass said Petrov and Balovlenkov had held jobs in which they had access to "security-sensitive information." It said "the temporary refusal" of exit visas did not violate U.N. covenants. Tass also said that the 1975 Helsinki accords do not provide for "a mandatory positive decision in absolutely all cases" of divided families. It said that in the past 18 months, "in Moscow alone" there have been 440 marriages between Soviet and foreign nationals, including 12 involving U.S. citizens.