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1986: Sakharov comes in from the cold

The most prominent Soviet dissident, Andrei Sakharov, has returned to Moscow after almost seven years of internal exile.

The 65-year-old scientist arrived with his wife and co-activist Yelena Bonner to a crowd of journalists and the public gathered at Moscow's railway station.

He immediately vowed to carry on speaking out on issues of human rights.

The couple arrived from Gorky, a closed city almost 250 miles east of Moscow, where they were banished in January 1980 after Dr Sakharov's criticism of the Soviet war on Afghanistan.

Dr Sakharov, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975, said his feelings on Afghanistan had not changed and he would not be silenced.

"I consider this the most painful point of our foreign policy. I would like to see decisive measures that would put an end to this tragedy," he said.

"I ask myself: Who is next? Who will die next?"

Andrei Sakharov

"I will never abandon the fight for human freedom. Peace depends on the freedom of each and every man."

He said news of his release was overshadowed by the death of jailed dissident Anatoli Marchenko last month.

"I ask myself: Who is next? Who will die next?

"It is impermissible for our country to have prisoners of conscience and people who suffer for their convictions," Dr Sakharov said.

The physicist was informed of his release in a telephone call from Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev last week.

He said he planned to return to research and will tonight attend a seminar at the Physics Institute of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, where he built his career.

Dr Sakharov was a key member of the team which developed the Soviet hydrogen bomb in the late 1940s and 1950s.

The invention later led him to consider its consequences on mankind and he published papers abroad on the importance of overcoming barriers between the USSR and the US during the Cold War.

Acclaimed internationally, but vilified domestically, he was eventually exiled from his home city in a bid to silence him.

In Context

Dr Sakharov was one of 600 dissenters exiled or imprisoned in the Soviet Union, according to Amnesty International figures at the time.

On his return to Moscow he became the most prominent figure in the Soviet Union's growing political opposition, demanding radical democratic changes.

In April 1989 he was elected a member of the Soviet Union's new parliament, the All-Union Congress of People's Deputies, and became joint-leader of the democratic opposition group.

He died suddenly in December that year of a heart attack.

The European Parliament's $15,000 Sakharov prize - launched a year before his death - is still awarded as an honour to individuals or institutions who have made significant contributions in the struggle for human rights.

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