The son-in-law of late Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev has pleaded guilty to abusing his position as a top police official, but he denied a more serious bribe-taking charge that could bring the death penatly.
Yuri Churbanov, who rose to become First Deputy Interior Minister through Brezhnev's patronage after marrying the Kremlin chief's daughter Galina, denied he accepted bribes equivalent to more than $1 million."I admit my guilt in abuse of office," Churbanov, 51, said on the fourth day of a trial widely seen as a condemnation of the whole 1964-82 Brezhnev era, dubbed the "years of stagnation" by the current reformist Kremlin leadership.
"But I do not accept my guilt in accepting bribes," he told the court.
The trial, until now open to foreign journalists, has revealed the extent of corruption in Uzbekistan under Sharaf Rashidov, a Brezhnev protege, who died in 1983 after a quarter century as Uzbek Party leader.
The court has heard case after case of police officials in the republic both giving and receiving bribes running to the equivalent of thousands of dollars each.
"If someone tried to keep aloof from the epidemic of bribery which swept Uzbekistan in those days he was smashed," read the testimony of one witness. "If you did not pay people off, they would destroy you."
Churbanov, on trial with eight other defendants, all former top police officials from the Soviet Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, made his plea on Thursday after the reading of a mammoth 1,500-page indictment.
He is will have a chance later to clarify his grounds for pleading guilty to abuse of power, which carries a 10-year sentence, and of not-guilty to bribe taking, which is still punishable by death in the Soviet Union.
Seven of Churbanov's co-defendants pleaded guilty to taking bribes, but not to the extent the prosecution alleged.
The eighth, former Uzbek Interior Minister Kaihdar Yakhyayev, 61, maintained he was innocent of all charges after saying on Wednesday that investigators had tried to force him to confess while he was in prison.
About 200 people, including Galina Brezhnev, are expected to give evidence but foreign journalists are barred from that part of the trial.