President Haidar Aliev has decided to release the giant Russian-owned AN-124 transport plane and the thirty-four, mostly Russian, military personnel detained with the plane since March 19 in Baku on prima facie suspicion of arms contraband (see the Monitor, March 24-25). Aliev said that his gesture was a favor to Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who was paying a prescheduled visit to Baku and interceded with the Azerbaijani president for the release of the plane and its passengers. Luzhkov broke the news last night and the Russian embassy in Baku added details today. Azerbaijan continues the criminal investigation and retains, for the time being, the six MiG-21 aircraft which were being smuggled to an as-yet-undetermined destination aboard the transport plane (Itar-Tass, March 30).
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