Bad day for Gorbachev: His car is stolen, and he must testify

September 22, 1992|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- Mikhail S. Gorbachev, who once rode only in heavily guarded limousines, finally has rejoined the ranks of the common man.

His car was stolen.

Car theft is becoming all too common. Every day 40 cars are stolen in this former police state where crime was as once as rare as profit.

Most residents of U.S. cities would consider this figure negligible. But such crime has traumatized people who may wait years just for the privilege of being able to buy a car. Gavriil Popov, the former mayor of Moscow, proposed last year that anyone found even touching someone else's car get a seven-year jail term.

Mr. Popov resigned -- for other reasons -- and cars keep disappearing. The former Soviet leader lost his from a guarded office parking lot Sunday night while he was on another of his triumphant tours of Germany.

He can expect little sympathy from his fellow victims. While he lost one new Volga sedan, the official Itar-Tass news agency said, he still has two more left.

Mr. Gorbachev got the three Volgas to replace his Zil limousine -- which Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin repossessed last year when he thought Mr. Gorbachev was criticizing too much.

But perhaps someone was doing Mr. Gorbachev a favor. Mr. Yeltsin has doubled oil prices and soon Muscovites say no one will be able to afford to drive.

Meanwhile, there was more bad news for Mr. Gorbachev. Russia's Constitutional Court ordered him to testify in a trial trying to decide if Mr. Yeltsin broke the law in banning the Communist Party.

If he refuses to testify, he can be fined 100 rubles or about 50 cents.

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