Yeltsin crushes hard-line foes Rebel leaders jailed

casualty reports mount CRISIS IN RUSSIA

October 05, 1993|By Kathy Lally | Kathy Lally,Moscow Bureau The New York Times contributed to this article.

MOSCOW -- Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin crushed his enemies in the parliament yesterday with a massive show of force and the resistance to his rule dwindled to scattered skirmishes in the capital's streets and on its rooftops.

Though the leaders of the anti-Yeltsin rebellion sat, defeated in Moscow prisons, their capture came at a high price.

Numerous deaths and injuries were reported after two days of gunfire, tank assault and mob chaos. The huge White House, as the parliament building is known, was in ruins, its upper floors burning like a torch.

Mr. Yeltsin's government had been severely tried, and though the bloodshed and disorder undoubtedly inflicted its political damage on him, public sympathy was shifting his way yesterday.

Reports from the provinces and neighboring states also spoke of growing solidarity with the president. Leaders of the 88 constituent parts of the Russian Federation, who only recently were divided in their allegiances, joined in approving the attack on the White House.

For the moment, Russia appeared to be surviving the assault on its young democracy.

While city officials said 31 people had been killed and 219 injured in the last two days, other reports predicted much higher casualties.

The fierce battle for the Ostankino television tower alone killed 62 and wounded 400, Russian television reported. Ten policemen and soldiers died and more than 50 were wounded yesterday, the Moscow military command said.

Numerous bodies were piled up after a devastating tank and troop assault on the White House, which only waned yesterday evening after the leaders of the defiant parliament emerged in the custody of soldiers about 6 p.m. (11 a.m. EST).

Parliament Chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov, looking pale and small in a dark suit, and Vice President Alexander V. Rutskoi, wearing camouflage fatigues and trying to maintain his dignity, were driven off in buses to the notorious Lefortovo prison.

And the sniper fire that spread to neighborhoods near the White House yesterday afternoon intensified. Early today, sharp reports and answering submachine-gun rounds regularly punctuated the air.

"There will be no forgiveness for them or for those who gave them orders," Mr. Yeltsin said in a nationwide television address. "Because they have lifted up their hand against civilians, against Moscow, against Russia, against children, women and old people."

By last night, the president was moving to consolidate his victory.

He sent special police units to track down the snipers who fanned out across Moscow and were still firing sporadically early this morning.

Expanding on his state of emergency decree, he imposed an 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. He banned several communist and right-wing parties and shut down the newspapers politically aligned with them -- perhaps hoping to avoid the same mistake he had made in 1991, when he failed to use his victory over the communist coup to dissolve parliament and set new elections.

He banned the venerable communist daily Pravda and suspended extremist political parties such as the National Salvation Front, Working Russia, the Russian Communist Party and the anti-Semitic Pamyat -- which he accused of stirring up unrest.

Mr. Yeltsin also was reported to be preparing an "appropriate decree" to deal with the Constitutional Court, a panel he created early in his presidency to safeguard citizens' rights. Under its chairman, Valery Zorkin, the court turned into a center of political opposition.

And he signaled plans to prosecute the leaders of the rebellious parliament. Russia's Vice Premier Vladimir Shumeiko asserted that Mr. Rutskoi, Mr. Khasbulatov and others probably would be brought to trial.

"I think legal proceedings will be started against each of them," he said in an interview with the Interfax news agency.

The two men, along with their erstwhile Cabinet of Viktor Barannikov, a former KGB chief, and two former generals, arrived at the KGB's Lefortovo prison at 8 p.m. yesterday. According to Interfax they were searched and underwent preliminary interrogation before being assigned cells.

With his bitterest foes in jail, Mr. Yeltsin appeared to have gained the upper hand.

An army loyal to the president was stopping the carnage. His opponents had begun it, leading their followers to bloodshed and defeat, and then emerging unscathed and unrepentant. This even after Mr. Rutskoi had spent days promising victory and a fight to his "last blood."

Yesterday, Mr. Rutskoi's own political party, the People's Party of Free Russia, denounced him.

"Those who pushed the people to bloody confrontation have trespassed the line separating politics from crime," said Vasily Lipitsky, a party member who signed the statement.

The events of yesterday marked a dramatic turn from the day before when Mr. Yeltsin had looked decidedly vulnerable.

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