In the dramatic struggle between the KGB and the tall figure of Nobel Peace Prize winner Andrei Sakharov, the stage is set for even harsher KGB measures, isolating him still more from contract with the outside world.
In turn, such measures would arouse more anti-Soviet sentiment in the United States and Western Europe and could strengthen the case for Western countermeasures in the aftermath of Afghanistan, including a boycott of the summer Olympics in Moscow in July.
This is the situation following new warnings to the Sakharovs, including threats of shooting and murder, and the Sakharovs' continued defiance.
Despite earlier warnings, Mrs. Sakharov (Yelena Bonner) made a second train journey from the city of Gorky to Moscow Feb. 4, eluding KGB surveillance by leaving the train early in the morning at a station just outside Moscow while two agents were asleep in the compartment next to hers.
She and Lisa Alexeyevna, the fiancee of her son, delivered food to another dissident, Malva Landa, then took a local electric train to Moscow.
In the late afternoon she met Western correspondents, including myself, at her former apartment, despite a warning Jan. 30 from the Moscow KGB not to make slanderous statements. The Jan. 30 meeting came after her first post-exile meeting with correspondents Jan. 28
In the second meeting, she read another statement from her husband. He said he had been called in on Jan. 30 by the deputy procecutor of the Gorky district, a man called Peregin, who said that Dr. Sakharov had broken restrictions on him that were based on an order by the Supreme Soviet of the USSR.
If there were any more violations, the deputy prosecutor said, the place of Dr. Sakharov's exile would be changed. So would the restrictions against him. And sanctions would be taken against his wife -- presumably meaning she would no longer be allowed to travel to Moscow on his behalf.
On Jan. 28, Dr. Sakharov said (the day his wife was in Moscow), two men had come into his Gorky apartment, pretending to be drunk. One had played with a pistol of the Makarov type. They said they could fire without missing from any position, and "threatened to create an Afghanistan in the apartment, completely annihilating it."
"Don't think you will be here for a long time," Dr. Sakharov quoted them as saying. "A place has already been prepared for you in a psychiatric hospital 30 kilometers from Gorky."
On Feb. 3, Dr. Sakharov continued, he received a letter containing a death threat. It arrived on a Sunday, when usual mail is not delivered.
"We have not taken such threats seriously before," Dr. Sakharov wrote, "but now, in full isolation and under guard by the KGB, these threats seem very serious to us."
A police box stands outside the Sakharov apartment. Anyone leaving the apartment is taken there for questioning. Surveillance continues around the clock. The Sakharovs believe the threats were made with the full knowledge of the KGB -- especially since firearms are obtainable here only by members of the armed forces and the police.
Replying to KGB pressure, Dr. Sakharov is taking a firm position, hoping to be given a trial he can use as a forum for his passionate defense of human rights.
He said in his statement he had told the deputy prosecutor in Gorky he had not been told before of the ban on contacts with foreigners -- only that he had been stripped of Soviet awards.
On Jan. 31 he wrote to the deputy prosecutor in Moscow, and demanded a trial. He said the KGB had acted against him on its own initiative, and emphasized that he refused to accept its actions -- even though he understood the consequences that could follow his stand.
Mrs. Sakharov's second visit to Moscow underscores her husband's defiance of the authorities, and her own.
Both she and her husband want telephone contact restored with her elderly mother, so they can check on her health. Currently there is no telephone in either the Moscow or the Gorky apartment. Her requests have been dismissed.
They both want Mrs. Sakharov's future daughter-in-law, Lisa Alexeyevna, (who is engaged to her son, who lives near Boston) to be allowed to emigrate. Mrs. Sakharov's mother has an exit visa; Lisa has applied, but has not had a reply.