Soviet officials yesterday were presented with a subpoena for a Soviet sailor who twice jumped ship in an apparent attempt to defect, but the Soviets said the sailor, Miroslav Medvid, does not want to leave the ship docked in Reserve, La.
At a news conference last night, Terrance Wear, who served the subpoena for the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the Soviets refused to comply with the subpoena. It had been issued Thursday by the Agriculture Committee, asking that Medvid appear Tuesday for a hearing in Washington.
According to Wear, the Soviets said Medvid "does not want to talk to the Senate , does not want to leave the ship, that he wants to go back to the U.S.S.R. and that the Soviet Union considers the case closed."
The meeting between Wear, Senate aide David Sullivan, Yevgeniy G. Vtyurin, vice consul and second secretary at the Soviet Embassy here, and the ship's captain went on for about three hours in the offices of a grain elevator company that is loading the Soviet ship with corn.
Nearby, Soviet crewmen lined the decks, sightseers gathered along the levee and protesters in boats shouted through bullhorns at the Soviet freighter Marshal Konev, special correspondent Charles Fishman reported from Reserve, about 30 miles upriver from New Orleans.
The question of removing Medvid from the ship came up at a morning meeting at the White House between President Reagan and a group of congressmen. Leaving the meeting, Rep. Robert J. Lagomarsino (R-Calif.) said, "He Reagan indicated he thought he Medvid could be questioned again because that's what the subpoena is all about" and because the Customs Service has said it will not let the ship sail until the document is complied with.
White House spokesman Larry Speakes later denied that Reagan wanted Medvid questioned.
But reached after Speakes' remarks, Lagomarsino said Reagan "did indicate he thought Medvid should be interrogated again . . . . He said that Customs officials said the ship could not leave until the subpoena question is settled, and he made it clear he supports that position."
After various unsuccessful legal efforts by Ukrainian-Americans and the American Civil Liberties Union to remove Medvid from the ship, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) sought the subpoena Thursday.
Medvid, on Oct. 24 and 25, swam ashore near New Orleans from the freighter, was questioned by U.S. officials and then was returned to his ship on the grounds that he was not seeking asylum in the United States. The State Department removed Medvid from the ship and questioned him Oct. 28 and 29, concluding that he wanted to be returned to the Soviet Union.
Thursday night, Wear and Sullivan boarded the ship. The captain told them he had orders not to produce Medvid until Soviet Embassy officials arrived from Washington.
Yesterday, Wear said, the subpoena was read to the Soviet officials after they refused to physically accept the document. Wear said the ship's captain accepted two cartons of cigarettes in which copies of the subpoena were concealed, however.
As a foreign citizen, Medvid has the right under U.S. law to refuse to appear before a congressional committee.
If the Soviets try to leave U.S. waters without permission, the Customs Service could ask the Coast Guard to intercept the boat. A Customs official Thursday night suggested the ship would be detained unless the subpoena is complied with, but yesterday officials said the State Department would have the final say.
The loading of the freighter was expected to be completed this morning, but Soviet officials on the ship obtained permission yesterday to stay in the harbor area until Monday.
The affair poses potential difficulties for the administration, which is preparing for the upcoming U.S.-Soviet summit.
One senior administration official, who asked not to be identified, said, "Everything points to the fact that we'd like to see the ship leave. If we got him off the ship, it's a 99 percent chance he would say he'd want to go back to the Soviet Union. This wouldn't help him or his family."
The official said the summit has not played a major part in Washington's handling of the case. "We wouldn't storm the ship in any case, whether it was presummit or not," he said.
The administration has said for several days that the Medvid case was closed. Speakes said yesterday at a news briefing that there was no change.
"The executive branch has carried out its responsibilities," Speakes said. "We're providing the appropriate courtesies to the Senate staff members who are working on the case . . . . As far as the administration is concerned, that is for the Senate."
Speakes acknowledged that the administration may be asked to enforce the subpoena. "We're reviewing the legalities of it," he said.
An administration official said there is concern over the initial handling of the case by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. "There was bungling at INS," he said. "Heads will probably roll over this." The official said, "We can't help Medvid, if we ever could. The point is, it was bungled at the start."
Attorney General Edwin Meese III has asked for an investigation of the INS actions regarding Medvid.
Meanwhile yesterday, the Supreme Court denied a request by lawyers for Ukrainian-American organizations to keep Medvid in the United States so his case can be pursued in the federal court system. Three lower courts had turned down similar requests.