3 killed as Soviets defy military, move to block armored vehicles 2 coup leaders are reported to step down SOVIET CRISIS

August 21, 1991|By New York Times News Service

MOSCOW -- The leaders of the Kremlin coup, facing increased opposition, responded yesterday with a curfew and fresh armored movements in Moscow that provoked clashes with angry civilians.

During the overnight violence, in which three people were killed defying the military curfew, angry civilians hurled firebombs and rocks. That occurred after a long, anxious day in which large crowds sought to protect the parliament headquarters of President Boris N. Yeltsin of the Russian Federation.

As the Kremlin sought to press home freshly assumed powers, (( Mr. Yeltsin intensified his spirited holdout against the junta of military, KGB and Communist Party figures who deposed President Mikhail S. Gorbachev on Monday.

Mr. Yeltsin drew cheers from tens of thousands of Muscovites through the day and into the night with his calls for the resignation and criminal trial of the eight-member Kremlin group that staged the overthrow.

The junta showed signs of disarray, with the announcement that Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov had been hospitalized and unconfirmed rumors that Defense Minister Dmitry T. Yazov had been replaced. The Yazov report was denied by a Kremlin official.

"Aggression will not go forward!" Mr. Yeltsin shouted to a throng of at least 30,000 gathered at midday yesterday outside the Russian republic's parliament. "Only democracy will win."

The Kremlin junta demanded that Mr. Yeltsin cease his call for nationwide resistance and, in ordering an 11 p.m. curfew, dispatched scores of tanks and armored troop carriers moving about the city in an attempt to intimidate civilians.

Through the day, the coup committee found its continuing series of executive orders and urgent announcements reaching a restive and increasingly resistant national audience.

Some leaders of the major republics began issuing statements of unequivocal opposition after their initial wariness of Monday. For example, President Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan ended his watchfulness with a strong denunciation of the coup as an illegitimate usurpation of power.

Alexei II, patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, questioned the junta's legitimacy and called on Soviet soldiers to restrain themselves.

While thousands protected Mr. Yeltsin's parliament building Tuesday night and into the morning today, an armored troop carrier was stopped in a confrontation two blocks away on the city's main ring road, and, witnesses said, three civilians lost their lives.

One man sought to climb atop the sealed vehicle and fell to his death under the wheels, according to witnesses. They said a second man was crushed against a barricade when the armored vehicle careered to escape, hitting a parked bus. A third man was also crushed.

A crowd that had been watching soon responded angrily with gasoline bombs and rocks, leaving the armored vehicle aflame, along with two other buses.

That was the first reported incident of violence and death in the first two days of the coup. A standoff marked by fright, uncertainty and growing popular resistance marked most of the day.

Mr. Pavlov was reported incapacitated yesterday, reportedly having suffered intense hypertension. There was little public doubt evident at that announcement about the intent bureaucrat who presaged the coup last week with denunciations of Mr. Gorbachev's plan to shift more power from the Kremlin to the republics.

In contrast, doubt seemed universal at the junta's assertion that Mr. Gorbachev had suddenly fallen into poor health. Mr. Yeltsin demanded that physicians from the World Health Organization be allowed to examine him.

Mr. Gorbachev's exact whereabouts remained unknown, although rumors abounded that the junta had had him spirited back to Moscow from the Crimea, where he dropped from sight at the end of a vacation as the Kremlin group made its move. But fresh information had him still under house arrest in his vacation home near Yalta.

"We're seeing the agony of the old regime," said Oleg D. Kalugin, a Soviet lawmaker and KGB defector, in predicting that the coup committee would be forced to retreat. "These are the old guys, simply crazy," he said.

The nation suffered a tense, unpredictable day under the new regime, with fresh rumors every hour. Russian republic officials reported the resignation of Mr. Yazov, leader of the armed forces and a critical figure in the junta.

That was quickly denied by the Kremlin, which was ringed with dozens of armored vehicles and hundreds of riot troops waiting near the Bolshoi Theater.

Last night, the roar of tanks on the move could be heard repeatedly and rumors intensified that the Kremlin might attempt a military attack on the Yeltsin headquarters.

That was denied by Kremlin officials, but tension was high, with Muscovites watching from their windows as scores upon scores of roaring armored vehicles swept the main roads after the 11 p.m. curfew.

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