The Russian Ministry of Security has ordered Baltimore Sun correspondent Will Englund to report back to Moscow's Lefortovo prison today for questioning, after informing him yesterday that his American lawyer and a U.S. Embassy official will be barred from the meeting.
Mr. Englund answered an earlier summons yesterday but declined to cooperate when the Russian investigator refused to allow the lawyer and the consular official to be present. He said he had been assured this would be allowed before he went to Lefortovo yesterday.
The Sun correspondent has not been told why the Ministry of Security, known as the KGB until 1991, wants to question him. But the official who summoned him, a captain in the former KGB named Viktor A. Shkarin, is the chief investigator in a case being prepared against Vil Mirzayanov, a Russian chemist.
On September, 16, 1992, The Sun published an article by Mr. Englund about chemical weapons research in the former Soviet Union, in which he quoted Dr. Mirzayanov extensively. On the same day, Moscow News published an article written by Dr. Mirzayanov and another scientist criticizing the continuing development of poison gases.
The Sun published a second article Oct. 19, 1992, in which Mr. Englund described the chemical research program in greater detail. On Oct. 22, Dr. Mirzayanov was arrested by Ministry of Security agents.
He has been charged with revealing state secrets.
Mr. Englund was first contacted by Mr. Shkarin on March 31.
He was was told Tuesday that his lawyer, Nancy Richman, an American consular official and a translator would be permitted to accompany him for the questioning yesterday. But when he arrived, Mr. Shkarin told him he had only agreed to allow the lawyer and consular official to accompany Mr. Englund into the building.
Mr. Englund refused to be interrogated under those conditions. "As far as I'm concerned, his dealings with me were in completely bad faith," he said.
Kathryn Christensen, managing editor of The Sun, said yesterday that the newspaper was "very concerned about the actions of the Security Ministry."
"We hope that no further attempts at intimidation are made and that the matter is resolved quickly," she said.
Yesterday's events occurred as a U.S. congressional leadership delegation was visiting Moscow.
The delegation included Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, a Maryland Democrat, who met yesterday with Valery Zorkin, the head of the Russian Constitutional Court, and asked him to look into the matter.
Richard A. Gephardt, a Missouri Democrat and House majority leader, said he spoke yesterday with Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, the speaker of the Russian Parliament, who has been leading attacks on President Boris N. Yeltsin, and tried to impress upon him the importance of a free press.
"I told him we often get criticized by you," he told reporters later, "and we often don't enjoy it but we feel very strongly about a free press. We did make a very clear statement."
Previously, the U.S. State Department said it had expressed its "concern" to the Russian Foreign Ministry.
Sources in the Russian Foreign Ministry said the summons caught them by surprise. They said in the past, the KGB would inevitably have warned them in advance about any such contact with an American reporter. They said they heard nothing about it until U.S. Embassy officials called the Foreign Ministry Tuesday to request a meeting on the matter.
The Russian security authorities have made it clear that Mr. Englund is being treated as a witness, rather than a suspect. Alexei Kandaurov, a spokesman for the Security Ministry, said that under Russian law a lawyer did not need to be present during the questioning of a witness. He added that if Mr. Englund refuses to appear today, he would be arrested.
The summons of Mr. Englund appears to be the first for an American reporter in Russia since 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, a reporter for U.S. News and World Report, was held briefly on espionage charges and then released before a U.S.-Soviet summit.