Yeltsin Says Yes to 20 Men Who Had the Guts to Say No
One by one, 20 KGB commanders refused to storm the Russian Parliament building in what may have been the turning point in last week’s attempted coup against President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin said Sunday.
Yeltsin said in an interview with Russian television that commanders of the KGB’s elite anti-terrorist Alpha Group resisted intense pressure, including “threats of court-martial, execution, et cetera” by their superiors.
“It was a complete surprise to all the KGB leadership” when the commanders refused to storm the 19-story structure last Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, Yeltsin said. The Parliament building was the focal point of the opposition during the coup.
“About 20 commanders were invited and bullied, one by one. Not one of them agreed,” he said. “Then all were gathered in a gym, but they said no, and once again no.”
Yeltsin said the commanders should be considered saviors of “Russia, the Soviet Union and the world.”
He said the Alpha Group--armed with grenade launchers, anti-tank missiles and other powerful weapons--originally was ordered to “disperse” the people in front of the building and break inside at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Because the commanders balked, the time for the attack was postponed until 8 p.m., then 10 p.m., then 1 a.m. Wednesday, then 3 a.m., according to Yeltsin.
When dawn broke Wednesday and the building had not been taken, the coup quickly fell apart.
Yeltsin said he learned of the plans to storm the building from both defectors and documents.
The KGB troops were supposed “to deliver crushing blows from all sides on the first floor, shoot everything, all that was alive, doors, windows, everything, break into the building . . . then penetrate into the president’s offices and capture the president,” Yeltsin said, referring to himself.
If there was any possibility that Yeltsin might escape, the troops were under orders to shoot him, he said.
In addition, he said, they were given a list of 11 other people to capture or “preferably to shoot” during the storming.
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for the L.A. Times biggest news, features and recommendations in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.