Soviets Rejoice Over Signs of Coup Collapse
Putschists Flee Moscow as Troops Ordered From City; Delegation to Visit Gorbachev
MOSCOW — AS tanks pulled away from the Soviet parliament yesterday, its jubilant defenders dared to believe that the coup was on the verge of collapse.Russian Federation President Boris Yeltsin, who spearheaded the resistance, announced at an emergency session of the Russian parliament that members of the so-called State of Emergency Committee who toppled President Mikhail Gorbachev on Monday were headed to an airport outside of Moscow with "unknown intentions." Officials of the Russian Republic later reported that the plane was flying to Soviet Central Asia. A Western diplomatic source said Russian Prime Minister Ivan Silayev was flying soon to the Crimea accompanied by Western diplomats to meet Mr. Gorbachev, Reuters reports. The official Tass news agency suggested that the hard-line Emergency Committee that overthrew Gorbachev had disbanded. "Restrictions announced by the former Emergency Committee on central, Moscow, and regional publications have been lifted," a brief Tass report said. The Soviet Defense Ministry ordered the immediate withdrawal of all troops deployed in Moscow and other areas during the overthrow of Mr. Gorbachev, according to Tass. For the crowds who gathered outside the parliament, this news broke three days of an intense vigil following the hard-liner takeover. After a tense night at the White House, as the Russian parliament building is called, the republic's legislature held an emergency session yesterday to discuss the coup and what measures should be taken to defeat the conspirators as quickly as possible. While some were more visibly optimistic than others, many parliament members seemed sure the coup attempt would fail. "We have passed the most critical moment. Without a doubt the forces loyal to the Russian republic leadership will prevail," said parliament member Valery Lunin. At the start of the session, legislators gave Yeltsin a standing ovation. Ruslan Khasbulatov, acting chairman of the parliament, then gave a speech in which he indicated widespread changes would be made after the "counterrevolution" was put down. He specifically targeted mass media that have served the hard-liners, such as the Communist Party daily Pravda, saying they may be reorganized. In addition, after an initial period of fence-sitting, the leaders of the Ukraine and Kazakhstan, the most influential republics after Russia, condemned the coup as unconstitutional. Originally both Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk and his Kazakh counterpart, Nursultan Na-zarbayev, had urged restraint. "If we go further down the road of illegality, the people will not forgive us," said Mr. Nazarbayev. Strikes appeared to be spreading as more workers were heeding Yeltsin's call for a general work stoppage. Lt. Gen. Leonid Zolotov, Moscow Military District chief of staff, said Wednesday "the withdrawal of troops from Moscow is in full swing," the Russian Information Agency said. Early signs of a split among hard-liners appeared on Tuesday, when the television news program Vremya reported that Soviet Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, one of eight committee members, was ill and confined to his bed. Also, rumors of the resignations of KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov and Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov from the committee were denied. Further indications of a rift in hard-line ranks appeared when a Communist Party deputy leader, Vladimir Ivashko, demanded yesterday to meet with Gorbachev, who has not been heard from since his ouster. Various reports have placed Gorbachev under house arrest either at his vacation resort in the Crimea. Without contact with Gorbachev, the party can't "give a political assessment to the events on Aug. 19," the official Tass news agency quoted Mr. Ivashko as saying. Signs that the coup was collapsing came after three civilians were killed before dawn in a clash with armored troops near the Russian parliament building. Gunfire echoed throughout Moscow streets shortly after midnight yesterday with red tracer bullets shooting straight into the sky. The three people were killed, either by gunfire or being crushed to death, as they tossed Molotov cocktails at an advancing tank column, eyewitnesses said. After the incident, a truce was negotiated. Interviewed soon after the incident, those outside the parliament were defiant. Their voices contained a mixture of fear, confusion, and rage, but the men at a barricade near the Russian parliament building did not break and run after blood was spilled early yesterday. "This is not a training cartridge. This is the real thing," said Mr. Vladimir, the man in charge at the barricade, as he waved a spent shell casing, yesterday. Only minutes earlier, the barricade on the city's Garden Ring Road just opposite the United States Embassy, had been the scene of a firefight. Three volunteers were killed by troops loyal to the so-called State of Emergency Committee, which claimed power after Gorbachev's ouster. "Only beasts could be capable of such a thing. We are dealing with barbarians, but we will remain at our posts to oppose them," said Vladimir, who was wearing combat fatigues. Saying tanks were about to move on the parliament, Yeltsin loyalists sounded the alarm again as dawn broke over Moscow, covered by a gray shroud of clouds. Showing extreme discipline, the people around the parliament once again formed human chains several rows deep. About an hour later it proved to be a false alarm and the crowd gave a collective sigh of relief. "It's my duty to stay in the line because I don't want my children to live like my grandparents did - under dictatorship," said Mikhail Semichaevsky, a businessman from Leningrad, who was in the lead human chain.