Worst riot of standoff hits Moscow

October 03, 1993|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau

MOSCOW -- Thousands of opponents of President Boris N. Yeltsin battled with police yesterday and burned barricades on a busy thoroughfare in the largest clash of Russia's 12-day-old political crisis.

A traffic policeman was crushed to death by a car trying to break through a cordon of police gathered in front of the demonstrators, and two dozen police officers were injured -- two seriously, officials said.

They said several protesters also were hurt, several seriously. Yeltsin opponents put the number of injured demonstrators at more than 60.

The escalating violence intensified the pressure on negotiators for Mr. Yeltsin and the anti-reform parliament to defuse their standoff, as the Russian Orthodox Church struggled to mediate a compromise.

Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk, an Orthodox Church leader who is serving as a mediator, said negotiators for Mr. Yeltsin and parliament devised a tentative formula for an end to the siege at the parliament building, known as the White House.

The formula envisages a controlled stockpiling of the arsenal held by about 500 paramilitary guards at the White House in return for a gradual stand-down of the 5,000 heavily armed police and riot troops who surround the building, Metropolitan Kirill said.

The proposal is to be reviewed by higher-level representatives of the two sides, Metropolitan Kirill said. He said that the formula could be signed as early as today.

After midnight, negotiators from both sides signed an agreement calling for full-scale talks among working groups later today about how to ease the tension, the Interfax news agency reported.

The agreement was reached during church-mediated talks at the home of Patriarch Alexei II, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the report said.

Last night, several hundred police armed with water cannons were staring down restless crowds of people who remained on the streets near the Russian Foreign Ministry after an afternoon of brutal assaults.

Barricades set ablaze

In mid-afternoon, about 2,000 well-organized pro-parliament and pro-Communist demonstrators built barricades on one of Moscow's most heavily traveled roads, the Garden Ring, after tearing down a large platform set up for a city festival and raiding construction sites.

They set some of their barricades on fire, producing thick black smoke and flames that smoldered into the night.

They were gathered less than a mile from the White House, where a rump Congress of People's Deputies is surrounded by a cordon of a few thousand police and razor wire.

As police pressed toward them in an attempt at dispersal, the demonstrators answered with a heavy barrage of chunks of concrete, pavement and bricks.

The police, wearing steel helmets and carrying metal shields, were pinned down under the assault.

The confrontations began when Mr. Yeltsin dissolved the

Congress of People's Deputies, which has steadfastly opposed his economic reforms.

As in other days, the trouble yesterday was isolated. While the demonstrators burned debris and stoned police, thousands of carefree Muscovites were enjoying a holiday hundreds of yards away.

They were celebrating the 500th anniversary of Arbat Street, a much-loved street that recently became home to Moscow's third McDonald's, housed in a renovated mansion.

From the White House, however, legislative leaders kept up their stream of inflammatory appeals despite television reports that they were ready to meet with Mr. Yeltsin.

"A virtual pro-fascist regime has been established," said Ruslan Khasbulatov, chairman of parliament.

"The proof of this is that the parliament has been turned into a gulag camp."

Vice President Alexander Rutskoi urged citizens to gather in support of the parliament.

"Rise up and join the fight against dictatorship!" he said in a statement distributed to reporters. "Now the Kremlin leaders are facing a united front of resistance sweeping across the country."

Mr. Rutskoi emerged briefly from the White House stronghold to tour the perimeter lined by police and urge them to defect to his side.

Shortly before, Mr. Yeltsin had visited the police to encourage them after days of standing in cold and rain and submitting to the abuse of demonstrators who call them fascists, traitors and worse.

Mr. Yeltsin agreed on Friday to restore electricity and heat to the White House if those inside would surrender their weapons. An initial agreement to give up the weapons was nullified by some of the defenders -- former military men -- inside.

"I think that common sense must prevail," Mr. Yeltsin said, "and there should be an agreement . . . on the surrender of weapons."

As negotiations continued yesterday at the Danilovsky Monastery, representatives of the parliament were reportedly insisting on access to television broadcasts.

Their position has received limited and negative coverage in most Russian news media.

Mr. Yeltsin, who has promised not to use force, has insisted that those inside the White House surrender their guns before further points can be discussed.

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