NEW YORK -- Risking execution, a respected Soviet literary translator said Tuesday he has taken over management of the Alexander Solzhenitsyn fund for political prisoners because the previous director was arrested.
Andrei Kistyakovsky, 47, said in a statement smuggled from Moscow he became director of Solzhenitsyn's Russian Social Fund on May 1, replacing his friend Sergei Khodorovich, the New York-based Freedom House organization said.
The statement reached New York through Solzhenitsyn's wife Nataliya, who mailed it from the Solzhenitsyn home in Cavendish, Vt., on June 1, Freedom House spokeswoman Ludmilla Thorn said.
Kistyakovsky said he would manage the fund until Khodorovich, who was arrested on April 7 in his Moscow apartment, is released.
Mrs. Thorn said Khodorovich, who was held for 25 days last summer on suspicion of 'hooliganism,' has not been formally charged.
A former fund worker, Valery Repin, was sentenced May 24 to two years in a Soviet labor camp and three years of internal exile after confessing on Leningrad television the fund was run by the CIA. He had faced execution on treasoncharges.
Kistyakovich said the confession was 'nonsense,' but, 'One can only sympathize with him.'
He said Khodorovich discussed his possible arrest with him and told him how to administer the fund, which provides food and clothing to the families of political prisoners while they are serving their sentences.
The organization is funded by the royalties from Solzhenitsyn's 'Gulag Archipelago,' a book on the horrors of the Soviet prison system. Solzhenitsyn spent eight years in a labor camp before his expulsion to the West in 1974.
Kistyakovich is a respected Soviet translator who has rendered William Faulkner and Ezra Pound into Russian. In April, eight pages of his translations of the British poet Ted Hughes appeared in the Soviet magazine 'Foreign Literature,' Mrs. Thorn said.
In a separate statement, Mrs. Solzhenitsyn said since Soviet leader Yuri Andropov took power last November, prison terms for convicted dissidents have 'sharply increased.'
'Sentences of 12 to 15 years have become the norm, as under Stalin,' she said, adding that working for the fund has been declared treasonous and punishable by firing squad.
'Under these conditions, Andrei Kistyakovksy's action is truly an act of self-sacrifice, a heroic deed,' Mrs. Solzhenitsyn said.