The number of people leaving the Soviet Union is growing and will continue to rise, but fears of a quick exodus of millions of Soviets after passage of a proposed emigration bill are "exaggerated," Soviet and Western diplomats said.
Nikolai Smirnov, deputy chief of the Soviet Foreign Ministry department that deals with emigration, told the official Tass news agency Saturday that the number of emigres after rules are relaxed would be nowhere near what some neighboring countries are bracing for.A senior Western diplomat concurred with that assessment Friday, saying the number of Soviet emigres would be limited by the number of people the United States and other countries would be willing to accept.
"I honestly think the concern about countries being overrun by hoards from the Soviet Union are misplaced," said the diplomat, who spoke with the condition he not be identified. "I don't think emigration will take that much of a jump.
A bill to remove many of the Soviet restrictions on free travel for the country's citizens has been proposed and pending in the Soviet Parliament since early this year, but the measure is not yet scheduled for a vote.
The United States had made passage of the emigration bill a condition for improved trade conditions and economic aid for the Soviet Union.
Smirnov told Tass a total of 336,000 people had emigrated from the Soviet Union in the first 10 months this year, with at total of 400,000 expected by year-end - nearly double the number of emigres in 1989.