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Russians Block Gorbachev's Visit to Italy

FORMER Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev canceled a trip to Italy yesterday, hours before he was scheduled to leave. His press service said the Russian government refused to let him go.

Mr. Gorbachev had been banned from leaving Russia altogether because of his refusal to testify at a Constitutional Court trial on the Communist Party.

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The court agreed Tuesday to suspend the ban to allow Gorbachev to travel to Germany for the funeral of former Chancellor Willy Brandt Saturday.

Gorbachev originally thought the decision meant he also could travel to Italy, where he was scheduled to receive several academic accolades and to meet Pope John Paul II and Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro.

But when the former Communist Party chief sought clarification from Russian authorities, they banned the Italian trip "for unknown and unclear reasons," according to a statement released by the Gorbachev Fund, the former president's private foundation.

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