The Soviet news agency Tass today said exiled physicist Andrei Sakharov was aging, but in good health, contrary to "blasphemous political speculation" being spread by western journalists.
In a report clearly designed to counter renewed pessimism about Sakharov's condition, Tass said the 64-year-old scientist had recently undergone a medical checkup that showed "no negative dynamics in his state of health."
The medical report, done by doctors in the Volga River city of Gorki where Sakharov was banished almost six years ago, did reveal "deviations from the norm caused by aging," Tass said. It said that as a consequence, Sakharov was following a regimen of "preventative medical therapy" at an outpatient clinic.
Today's report on Sakharov's health broke an 18-month official silence on the Nobel Peace Prize winner whose exile in Gorki has become the most often cited example in the West of Soviet human rights violations.
The timing was dictated by reports about Sakharov's weakened state that have appeared since his wife, Yelena Bonner, 62, came to the West on Monday to seek medical treatment.
Tass today accused journalists and "politicos" in the West of spreading rumors that Sakharov's health was declining.
"One gets the impression that some of them and those who stand behind them would prefer the state of health of Sakharov to be poor, or better still, to become very poor," Tass said.
The last time Tass issued any information about Sakharov was in May 1984, when he began his second hunger strike, then to persuade authorities to allow Bonner to leave the Soviet Union for medical treatment.
At that time, Tass said Sakharov was eating regularly, feeling well and leading an active life. According to recent reports, Sakharov's hunger strike in 1984 ended only when he was force-fed at a hospital in Gorki. He reportedly suffered a minor stroke at the time.
Today's report said that Sakharov had undergone a complete checkup at the hospital in Gorki.