The Bloody Battle for Power in Moscow
For 24 hours, Monitor correspondents followed the fighting as it shifted to various parts of the city - a reporter's notebook
AT 4 p.m. Sunday those in Russia's White House, or Parliament building, moved through the corridors in a euphoric and triumphant mood.Skip to next paragraph
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A mob of at least 15,000 had just smashed through a police cordon to ``liberate'' the besieged parliament building. And neo-Communist and nationalists were ready to go on the offensive. ``We're going to take the mayor's building and the television center,'' an aide to hard-line deputy Ilya Konstantinov shouted excitedly as he escorted his boss through the halls. Other nationalist deputies, such as Sergei Baburin, could be seen beaming with pleasure, secure in victory.
Within minutes, the attack on the mayor's office - across the street from the parliament - commenced. There was gunfire, but many shots apparently were fired in the air. Pro-Yeltsin militia units fled the scene in a panic, herded like sheep by pro-parliament fighters, who fired automatic weapons in the air. Meanwhile thousands of civilians gawked at the spectacle, oblivious to the dangers. As the mayor's office building fell in pro-parliament hands, shouts of ``kill the mayor'' echoed through the lobby and the crowd smashed glass doors to gain access.
Interviews with several pro-Yeltsin Interior Ministry troops - who were effectively taken prisoner and were under armed guard - indicate that the pro-Yeltsin forces blockading the legislature had no desire to open fire on the crowd. Many had been stationed outside the parliament for over a week - in freezing temperatures, with little food and rest. The battle for TV
The action soon shifted to the Ostankino television complex, about five miles north of the city center. Pro-parliament partisans arrived at the sprawling complex in captured military trucks and city buses. As the sun went down at about 6 p.m., the mob simply milled in front of the main entrance. Dozens of pro-Yeltsin Interior Ministry troops stood outside the building, making no move to disperse the crowd. But inside the building plenty of heavily armed elite troops, known as OMON, remained. At one point retired Gen. Albert Makashov, the leader of the pro-parliament forces, addressed the Interior Ministry troops outside the building, inviting them to join his side.
``Our people have been suffering for a long time,'' he told the baby-faced troops in their ill-fitting helmets. ``Now they have come here. These people would never support the thieves, thugs, and prostitutes that are now running the country. That's what we rebelled against.''
Among the pro-parliament supporters at Ostankino, were those who were newcomers to the political storm, as well as plenty of hard-core neo-Communists and fascists, the backbone of the opposition movement.
``Before, I never participated in political actions, but after the riots I saw on the streets, I decided that I must participate,'' said Natasha, a 10th-grade biology teacher, referring to violent street demonstrations Saturday. ``The media here has lied to the people constantly. I was tired of being lied to.''
The main sentiment expressed by the mob appeared to be xenophobia. ``Russia is a rich country - richer than America. We'll defeat you,'' shouted Alexei Sapigin, echoing typical comments. ``You Americans will never be able to do to Russians what you did to your Indians.'' Urging surrender