MOSCOW -- The Soviet media Thursday hinted at a conspiracy in the airplane crash that killed 13-year-old Samantha Smith, the American schoolgirl whose 1983 visit to the Soviet Union symbolized international hopes for peace.
The Communist Party newspaper Pravda followed a sentence saying her plane 'was for some reason directed to another city and crashed,' with a paragraph talking of threats against the young girl.
The Pravda insinuations continued a media line established after the death of Samantha on Sunday night. Stories praising the youngster have ended with suggestions of mystery surrounding her death.
The military newspaper Red Star headlined its story 'due to unknown reasons.' A Soviet population used to reading between the lines knew what to think.
'They keep emphasizing that she was murdered,' a well-educated Russian man said Wednesday. 'I think it is highly possible, they were threatened so many times.'
Samantha became a symbol of international fears of a nuclear holocaust when she wrote the late Soviet leader Yuri Andropov about the danger of war.
Andropov not only answered, but invited the girl, then 11 years old, for a highly publicized two-week tour of the Soviet Union in 1983 that Moscow said proved its peaceful intentions.
'Reactionaries often threatened the young American and her parents, but they failed to make her feel threatened,' the state-television said a day after her death, adding that the plane had been 'diverted for an unspecified reason.'
The television news program Vremya concluded a somber film report on her death Tuesday night by having the commentator repeat a Tass report saying 'the type of plane which crashed in Auburn-Lewiston has a record of being one of the safest types of aircraft.'
The flight, which originated at Logan International Airport in Boston, was scheduled to stop only in Augusta, Waterville and Bangor. A stop in Auburn was added at the request of two passengers, airline officials said.
Crash investigators said the 15-passenger Beechcraft 99 plane was several hundred yards off course when it clipped the tops of some pince trees, plunged into a gully and burst into flames.
According to Pravda's report, Samantha 'became convinced of the Soviet people's ardent striving for peace' during her visit to the Soviet Union.
She pursued the theme of 'mutual understanding between nations' in a subsequent book on her visit, Pravda said, 'and then came a report, transmitted by news agencies, saying that Samantha and her father died in an air crash.'
The Communist Party newspaper said that Samantha's father, Arthur, had told a Pravda correspondent, 'Most of the people warmly support us but there are those who are displeased. Such people call us voluntary agents of Moscow and even sometimes threaten us with punishment.'