Bonn urges easing of Gorbachev travel ban

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The Independent Online
BONN - The German government yesterday stepped up pressure on Moscow to ease a travel ban on Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet leader, so that he can attend the state memorial service in Berlin on Saturday for Willy Brandt, the former West German chancellor, who died last week, writes John Eisenhammer.

Dieter Vogel, the government spokesman, said: 'The Russian government knows that Gorbachev has received an invitation from us, or is about to get one. This shows that the German government attaches importance to Mr Gorbachev's presence.'

Brandt, a former West German chancellor and Nobel peace prize winner, died last Thursday at the age of 78. Chancellor Kohl is reported to have become 'greatly concerned' about the travel ban on Mr Gorbachev and to have asked his officials discreetly to do what they could to help the former Soviet president attend the Berlin service.

Yesterday, Mr Vogel denied that Bonn had tried to intervene with President Yeltsin on Mr Gorbachev's behalf. 'That is an internal Russian affair,' he said, adding, 'who knows, maybe by then Mr Gorbachev will have got his passport back anyway and will be able to attend the Berlin service.'

The travel ban was imposed after Mr Gorbachev's refusal to give evidence to the Russia's Constitutional Court during its hearings into the activities of the Soviet Communist party.