Gorbachev back in Moscow, 'in full control' THE SOVIET CRISIS


August 22, 1991|By Will Englund | Will Englund,Moscow Bureau of The Sun

MOSCOW -- President Mikhail S. Gorbachev returned to Moscow early today after the disintegration of the 3-day-old junta that tried to overthrow him. He promptly had five members of the junta arrested, according to the independent Interfax news agency.

Mr. Gorbachev reassumed the full powers of his post late yesterday and said in a televised statement that he was "in full control of the situation."

Mr. Gorbachev, in his first public comments on the collapsed takeover, said on Soviet television that Soviet society would have been heading for disaster if the hard-line State Committee for the State of Emergency had succeeded in its aims.

"They have not succeeded, and this is a great victory for perestroika," he said.

"I congratulate our Soviet people, who have both a sense of responsibility and a sense of dignity and a concern for respecting all those to whom they entrust power."

Mr. Gorbachev said that his captors had him surrounded with troops at his Black Sea summer home for three days and had tried to "break" him.

"Society must know, the entire world must know what they were up to and what they wanted to do with me and what they wanted from me and did not get from me," he said.

Four members of the junta had flown yesterday to Mr. Gorbachev's dacha in the Crimea -- where, only hours earlier, he had been their prisoner -- hoping to work out a deal as their coup was collapsing.

Instead, according to Interfax, the leaders of the coup were arrested. Mr. Gorbachev flew back to Moscow early today, bringing the coup leaders with him. His plane landed in Moscow at 2:15 a.m. today (7:15 p.m. EDT last night).

"Half an hour ago on the plane, a Tupolev-134, we brought to Moscow Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, healthy, clear-headed, alive and intact, together with the family," Russian Vice President Alexander Rutskoi said.

Reportedly arrested were Vladimir A. Kryuchkov, head of the KGB; Defense Minister Dmitry T. Yazov; Oleg Baklanov, chairman of the DefenseCouncil; Nikolai I. Tizyakov, president of the Association of State Enterprises; and, in Moscow, Boris K. Pugo, the minister of the interior.

A Russian legislator, Anatoly Mostovoy, cited "reliable sources" as saying that the entire junta had been arrested, but he could not give details regarding where or when.

Long lines of tanks and armored vehicles filled Moscow's streets throughout the afternoon and evening, but this time they were on their way out of the city and were being cheered along by bystanders. Mr. Gorbachev ordered all army units back to their barracks.

Elaborate army and police barricades that had clogged the center of Moscow slowly came down. More difficult to remove will be the improvised tank traps and rubble blockades erected by angry Muscovites on all the streets leading to the Russian Federation building, Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin's headquarters and the center of opposition to the leaders of the coup.

The curfew on Moscow was lifted; no one had obeyed it anyway. Decrees that shut down all but the official newspapers also were removed. Russian television and radio -- which are sympathetic to Mr. Yeltsin -- went back on the air.

The status of Gennady I. Yanayev, the vice president whom the junta had put forward as acting president, was not clear last night.

Another member of the junta, Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov, was first reported to be ill with high blood pressure Tuesday night. By yesterday, Vladimir Shcherbakov, the first deputy prime minister, was saying that Mr. Pavlov had been so ill that he had not taken part in any of the junta's deliberations.

The leadership of the Soviet parliament, most of whom had remained silent since Monday, formally declared Mr. Gorbachev's reinstatement yesterday and declared that his removal from power had been illegal. The leaders said they would launch a parliamentary investigation of the men who plotted the coup.

The federal prosecutor's office also announced that a criminal investigation had begun.

In the republics of Russia and Moldova, meanwhile, prosecutors were directed to investigate all people who had complied with the orders of the junta.

Members of the Cabinet of Ministers, who according to Soviet television Tuesday gave their support to the junta, said yesterday that they fully backed both Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Yeltsin.

Even the Communist Party issued a long statement last night pointing out its history of support for democratic reform and calling on the parliament to investigate the coup, which it had already promised to do.

Alexander N. Yakovlev, a liberal adviser to Mr. Gorbachev who quit last month and was then expelled from the party, charged in a statement given to the Interfax news agency that the party had kept silent when the coup was staged.

"The way in which the coup was organized and carried out shows that behind it there stand the military-industrial complex, the state bureaucracy clans of the old union and the ultra-reactionaries of the Communist Party," he said.

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