Coup's goal was to renew repression, Russians say Prosecutors cite plan for Stalinist steps

January 22, 1992|By Elizabeth Shogren | Elizabeth Shogren,Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- The plotters of the August coup here had elaborate plans to turn back the clock to a time just before former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev came to power, and they were prepared to launch massive Stalinist repressions, Russian prosecutors said yesterday.

The prosecutors also said that the plotters thought they eventually would win Mr. Gorbachev's cooperation in reversing the liberalization trend he had begun.

In their 4 1/2 -month investigation of the failed coup, prosecutors said, they found 100 documents describing the plotters' intention to re-create the Soviet society of 1984, when political prisoners were commonplace, the news media were controlled by the Communist Party, and elections were inconsequential because there was only one name on the ballot for each job.

"Everything that was done from 1985 to 1991 would have been eliminated," chief prosecutor Yevgeny K. Lisov said at a news conference.

Those involved in the coup were ready to use "any tough measures, including repressive ones" and "Stalinist ones," Mr. Lisov said after the news conference. "Unfortunately, we have a lot of experience in this."

The plotters had planned to abolish the "soviets," or elected councils, at the district, city, regional and republic level, and to jail progressive politicians, he said. And, until the end, the plotters, some of the country's most powerful men and Mr. Gorbachev's appointees, held out hope that the former Soviet president would join them.

Mr. Gorbachev had not expressed any such support, Mr. Lisov said, "but through his prolonged communication with the plotters, who were his close associates, some specific features of his nature gave them the basis to presume that sooner or later -- in a day, two days or three days -- they would be able to attract Gorbachev to their side. Eventually, this factor was the decisive one that compelled them to try to seize power."

Despite Mr. Gorbachev's refusal to participate, the plotters went ahead with their plan, code-named "ABC," on the night of Aug. 17-18.

The coup failed after three days, and its organizers were arrested. In its aftermath, the Soviet Union fell apart, Mr. Gorbachev resigned, and the republics began moving toward free-market capitalism.

Twelve former Soviet officials were formally charged last week with conspiring to seize power, a lesser charge than treason but one that still carries a potential prison sentence of 15 years or, possibly, execution.

The ex-officials charged include the former prime minister, Valentin S. Pavlov; the former defense minister, Marshal Dmitry T. Yazov; the former vice president, Gennady I. Yanayev; and the former chairman of the KGB, Vladimir A. Kryuchkov.

Besides the 12, three other officials have been accused, but they have not been charged or imprisoned because of health reasons.

The trial is not expected until at least summer because of the time defense attorneys have been given to study the 125 volumes of evidence prepared by the prosecutors.

Through extensive interrogations of the accused and documents found in the files of the KGB, the prosecutors pieced together a picture of the repressive society the coup plotters wanted to build.

In their vision, crime would have been controlled by sending patrols into all cities, towns and villages with the authority to shoot on sight suspected thieves and other criminals, Mr. Lisov said.

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