Dissident goes back to Moscow

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Natan Sharansky returned to Moscow as an honoured Israeli minister yesterday, 10 years after he was freed from a KGB jail and turned over to the West in one of the most dramatic prisoner swaps of the Cold War.

Mr Sharansky, a Soviet-era dissident who served nine years on charges of spying for Washington, was received with honours by Mayor Yuri Luzhkov in the grandeur of Moscow town hall - a far cry from the squalor of the KGB prison where he spent his last Moscow days.

"As a former Muscovite, forced to leave Moscow, I return as a minister of Israel to a city of free people," he said after signing a trade agreement.

Mr Sharansky said he would visit friends who had joined him in human rights demonstrations in the 1970s. Today he is scheduled to visit the Lefortovo prison where he was held after his arrest.

He was made a minister in Benjamin Netanyahu's government after the success of his Yisrael ba-Aliya (Israel of Immigration) party in Israel's elections last May.