Yeltsin recalls army paralysis in Oct. uprising

April 25, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

MOSCOW -- President Boris N. Yeltsin, in a detailed new account yesterday of the violent uprising against him in October, says he met with paralysis and face-to-face insubordination among army officers and elite combat troops before they finally moved to recapture the Russian White House.

"The lawful government hung by a thread, but the army did not feel able to defend it. Some soldiers . . . didn't feel like fighting," Mr. Yeltsin writes in his memoirs, excerpts of which appeared in Newsweek and the Sunday Times of London. The 63-year-old president describes the showdown with his foes in Parliament as "the bleakest days of my life."

Mr. Yeltsin's version makes it clear that army resistance to his orders went much further than officially acknowledged at the time.

It also portrays a leader tactically and psychologically unprepared for the violent showdown that he, in fact, provoked by illegally dissolving Parliament two weeks earlier.

The memoirs -- to be published next week under different titles in the United States, Britain and Russia -- are certain to revive bitter debate here over who caused the 147 deaths in two days of fighting that ended Oct. 4 with a hesitant assault on the rebel-held Parliament building.

And with rebel leaders out of jail under an amnesty and engaged again in anti-government activism, the book raises the question whether Mr. Yeltsin could count on the army again.

Among those depicted as weak and wavering figures is Gen. Pavel S. Grachev, who is still army commander and defense minister.

Mr. Yeltsin admits being seized by self-doubt during the October violence and by depression afterward.

"For the first time in my life I was tortured by the thought: 'Had I done the right thing? Was there another option?' Russia was drowning in lawlessness. And here I was, the first popularly elected president, breaking the law -- albeit a bad law, a cumbersome law that was pushing the country to the brink of collapse."

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