Yeltsin, in turnabout, returns Gorbachev's confiscated passport


MOSCOW -- Prodded by President Boris N. Yeltsin, the Russian Constitutional Court agreed yesterday to hand back Mikhail S. Gorbachev's confiscated passport so that the former Soviet leader may attend a state funeral in Germany.

It was the most encouraging sign yet that the two men have reached an understanding breaking the internationally embarrassing deadlock caused by Mr. Gorbachev's refusal to appear in a case involving the Communist Party's past.

Court Chairman Valery Zokerin announced that the court's summons to Mr. Gorbachev, Soviet Communist Party general secretary from 1985 to 1991, was still in force. But he said that a travel ban imposed on Mr. Gorbachev Oct. 2 after he declined to testify was being lifted "on humanitarian grounds."

That will allow Mr. Gorbachev to attend the funeral Saturday of former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt, whose overtures toward the East led to a dramatic improvement in relations.

Mr. Yeltsin had sent a letter to the court earlier in the day asking that Mr. Gorbachev, esteemed by many Germans, be allowed to attend the funeral, Mr. Yeltsin's press service announced.

There was probably a good deal of political calculation in Mr. Yeltsin's act. Mr. Gorbachev is hailed in Germany for giving the green light to German reunification.

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