An article yesterday incorrectly stated that Soviet human rights activist Yelena Bonner met with President Reagan during her recent trip outside the Soviet Union.
Yelena Bonner, human rights activist and wife of Nobel laureate physicist Andrei Sakharov, returned here today to warm embraces by friends and greetings from several western diplomats, bringing a dramatic end to six months of medical treatment and campaigning in the West for her exiled husband's cause.
Asked at an impromptu press conference at the airport how she felt, Bonner replied, "It's complicated. I was staying with my family there, but my husband was here. If I didn't have a husband here, I wouldn't have come back."
She remained silent when asked whether she thought her campaign in the West to free her husband from internal exile would help their plight.
Bonner, banished since 1980 with Sakharov to the closed Soviet city of Gorki, received a visa to travel to Italy and the United States last December for eye treatment and heart surgery. Her original three-month visa, rarely granted to any Soviet citizen, was renewed last March.
Bonner's six-month journey abroad is the first case in memory in which a dissident Soviet citizen was allowed a round trip to the West. Her return poses a test case for Soviet authorities, who are expected to come under renewed western pressure to end the couple's exile.
Bonner told journalists today that she hoped to stay in her Moscow apartment for "two or three days" before departing for Gorki. She last spoke to her husband by telephone May 15 and last saw him in November.
Two American friends -- Robert Arsenault, a Washington communications specialist, and Richard Sobol, a Bonner family friend from Massachusetts -- who flew with her to Moscow, said they hoped to accompany Bonner to Gorki to confirm that she would be reunited with Sakharov.
Gorki, 250 miles northeast of Moscow, is off-limits to foreigners.
The 62-year-old Bonner, who looked more vigorous and upbeat after the operations and an extended visit with relatives near Boston, was also accompanied on her Alitalia flight from Milan by U.S. congressmen Dan E. Lundgren (R-Calif.) and Barney Frank (D-Mass.).
Her welcome was marked by heavy western presence and relatively light Soviet security. Diplomats from the United States, France, the Netherlands, Canada and other western countries, met Bonner at the airport. She went through a routine half-hour customs check after landing and walked out into a crowd of western journalists, and a few Soviet well-wishers at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.
Bonner immediately kissed a friend and later signed an autograph for a young Soviet boy who had pushed through the crowd.
Asked whether she was preparing to emigrate to the West, Bonner said, "I don't think about that, preparing to emigrate or not preparing to emigrate. If I had wanted to emigrate, I would have submitted the documents."
Sakharov, awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, was an outspoken human rights activist here until he was banished to internal exile in 1980 to prevent his access to western correspondents and diplomats.
At her Dec. 2 departure from Moscow, Bonner declined to comment on Sakharov or herself, saying that she had agreed not to give interviews or hold press conferences with western correspondents as a precondition for permission to go to the West for medical treatment.
But after an initial period of restraint in the United States, Bonner granted interviews to several American and Western European journalists and met with President Reagan, French President Francois Mitterrand, Italian President Benito Craxi and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to plea for assistance in gaining freedom for Sakharov.
Asked today what prompted her decision to break her oath of silence, Bonner said "there were very many lies coming out of here about us." Lundgren, in an interview, explained further: "She thought that after she arrived there the disinformation about Sakharov would stop. And the fact is that it didn't."
Victor Louis, Soviet journalist and a source of official Soviet information about Sakharov and Bonner, reacted critically to Bonner's openness in the West in a telephone interview last week.
"She hasn't violated her promise not to talk to journalists because she hasn't been given this pledge," Louis said. But, he said, her criticisms of the Soviet Union had "jeopardized" the possibility of an early end to Sakharov's exile. Louis also charged Bonner with "violating the limited rights she had been given" by traveling outside of Italy and the United States.
Bonner went to France and Great Britain as well.
Congressmen Lundgren and Frank were given Soviet visas at short notice to accompany Bonner to Moscow. But 15 hours after arriving, they planned to board a plane back to Washington.
After weaving her way through the welcoming crowd at the airport, Bonner climbed into a blue Chevrolet and drove toward her apartment.