13 Accused of Treason in Soviet Coup; Hunt for Plotters Grows : Kremlin crisis: Lukyanov and other top party officials are to be questioned.
Thirteen men accused in the plot to overthrow Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev were charged Wednesday with high treason, a crime that can carry a sentence of death by firing squad, as vigilante groups sprouted around the country to ferret out their accomplices.
The Russian Federation prosecutor general made it clear that the net has been cast wider for the others involved. Among those to be questioned soon by prosecutors are the disgraced chairman of the Supreme Soviet legislature, Anatoly I. Lukyanov, and top Communist Party officials, including members of the Secretariat and Central Committee.
But expressing concern that the reaction to last week’s failed coup d’etat is rapidly building into a wave of anti-Communist terror, the prosecutor general, Valentin Stepankov, called on the populace to stop forming self-appointed citizen committees. His deputy said these groups have impounded documents and interrogated people in various cities without legal authority.
“Although these people are possibly motivated by the sincere desire to understand what happened and identify those helping the people responsible for the coup, I would like to warn them against attempts at lynching,” Stepankov said.
Gorbachev himself also urged moderation. “We don’t need terror,” he told the nation’s legislature. He reminded them of bloody instances in this country’s past, including under dictator Josef Stalin, when the charge of treason was used to kill “people who think differently.”
Meanwhile, the jostling for political power--left in tatters by the putsch--intensified.
Early today, Russia and the Ukraine, the two most populous Soviet republics, said that they had agreed to form a temporary economic and military alliance and invited other “former subjects of the U.S.S.R.” to join them, according to wire service reports from Kiev.
The agreement amounted to a new inter-state treaty between the breakaway republics and did not mention any significant future role by the Kremlin or Gorbachev.
In other developments:
* In a clear sign that the Kremlin accepts Lithuania’s movement toward independence, a KGB general representing Moscow signed an agreement with Lithuanian officials giving the Baltic republic substantial control of its own borders. Starting today, visitors to the republic will need only a Lithuanian-issued visa. Lithuanian guards are soon to take sole control of border crossings.
* The Supreme Soviet--in a tense, emotion-filled session--gave a resounding 402-16 vote of no-confidence in the Cabinet of Ministers, accused by Gorbachev of having worked hand in glove with the plotters’ short-lived State Emergency Committee.
* Boris N. Pankin, ambassador to Czechoslovakia, was named Soviet foreign minister, succeeding Alexander A. Bessmertnykh, fired by Gorbachev for his conduct during the coup. In Washington, Bush Administration officials said they know little about Pankin beyond the fact that he opposed the coup.
“He (Gorbachev) seems to be looking for loyalty above all else,” one official said. Other sources described Pankin as “a thinker, not a doer,” someone who would be less willing than his predecessors to cooperate on bold foreign-policy initiatives.
* In the Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, the president ordered the Communist Party shut down. In neighboring Uzbekistan, the party leadership voted to sever ties with the national party in Moscow because of its “cowardly” conduct during the coup. The new head of Soviet state broadcasting, Yegor Yakovlev, said in a television interview that he found one-third of his employees to be KGB operatives and that they would be fired as of today.
* Vitaly N. Ignatenko, 50, Gorbachev’s spokesman, was appointed general director of the official Tass news agency, which he vowed to make “a truly democratic agency guided in its activities only by law and principles of free speech.”
* Raisa Gorbachev’s book, titled “I Hope,” was published by the Novosti press agency. Written before she and her husband were detained during the three-day coup, the book pays tribute to her husband’s grit. “I believe that his staunch character and courage will help my husband stand the unprecedented trials of this, the most difficult period of our life. I hope,” she wrote.
Stepankov, the Russian Federation prosecutor, said the accused conspirators during interrogation were trying to place the blame on their fellows. “When giving testimony, each tries to come clean on the activities of his associates while playing down his own role in every way,” he said.
He told Western journalists that those charged include the seven surviving members of the State Emergency Committee.
The seven are Vice President Gennady I. Yanayev, who usurped Gorbachev’s presidential office; Prime Minister Valentin S. Pavlov, formally relieved of his duties Wednesday by the Supreme Soviet; KGB Chairman Vladimir A. Kryuchkov; Defense Minister Dmitri T. Yazov; Oleg D. Baklanov, deputy chairman of the Defense Council; Vasily A. Starodubtsev, chairman of the Soviet Peasants Union; and Alexander I. Tizyakov, president of the Assn. of State Enterprises and Industrial, Building, Transport and Communications Facilities.
The eighth member, Interior Minister Boris K. Pugo, was found dying of a bullet wound when police went to arrest him at his Moscow apartment.
Also charged were Gorbachev’s chief of staff, Valery I. Boldin; Oleg Shenin, a member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee; Gen. Valentin I. Varennikov, commander-in-chief of Soviet ground forces; Lt. Gen. Yuri S. Plekhanov, chief of the KGB division that supplies Gorbachev’s bodyguards; Plekhanov’s subordinate, Vyacheslav Generalov, and Vladimir Grushko, deputy chief of the KGB.
All of those charged have been stripped of their jobs by order of Gorbachev. Stepankov said the public prosector of the Ryazan region, N. Bessonov, and his deputy have also been fired because of involvement in the conspiracy. Investigations are under way in nine other regions.
The conspirators are being held in a secret detention center under reinforced guard, the Izvestia newspaper reported.
They have been charged with “betrayal of the motherland” under Article 64 of the Russian Criminal Code, which can lead to a 10-to-15-year prison term or execution, which in the Soviet Union is carried out by firing squad. There is no indication when they will be brought to trial.
Like Gorbachev, the Russian prosecutor urged his fellow citizens in a Tass interview to exercise restraint in punishing people linked to the abortive putsch. “We cannot bring anyone to criminal responsibility for dissidence,” Stepankov said. “Anyone has the right to share the Emergency Committee’s views. But only those who have actually committed crimes must be punished.”
Russian Federation President Boris N. Yeltsin continued to expand his powers and his ambitions.
In a decree made public three days after it was signed, Yeltsin declared all Communist Party real estate and other property in the Russian Federation to be “state property,” instantly giving the republic and his government a windfall of thousands of office buildings, health resorts, cars and every single kopeck and dollar now in party bank accounts.
He even said that the Kremlin, the seat of Soviet power and site of Gorbachev’s presidential office, “belongs to Russia, not to the center.”
Gorbachev, president of the entire Soviet Union but very much in an inferior position to Yeltsin after the coup, scrambled to save some of his fading clout by objecting to the number of decrees still being churned out by the Russian leader, who began issuing them last week to fight the anti-Gorbachev plot.
“But now that is behind us . . . I must say that this is unacceptable for us all,” Gorbachev told the Supreme Soviet. “Everything must be based on the (Soviet) Constitution, on cooperation.”
With the virtual collapse of the unitary state and the lightning rise of Yeltsin, many non-Russians in the Soviet Union are expressing fears of a renaissance of the messianic quest to construct a Russian empire.
“In effect, there is a great danger of the rebirth of Russian chauvinism,” said Maj. Vladimir P. Zolutukhin, an ethnic Russian elected to the Soviet legislature from Uzbekistan. “It will be carried out in such a way that there is a diktat by Russia toward the other, smaller republics.”
To run the country now that the Cabinet of Ministers has been dissolved, Russian Prime Minister Ivan S. Silayev created--with Gorbachev’s blessing--a 21-member “interim economic management committee” to run state affairs until further notice. Unlike the old Cabinet, the committee includes representatives from the republics. But many deputies noted that Silayev is a Yeltsin ally.
“A vacuum has developed,” Gorbachev said, explaining the rationale for the committee. But there were energetic protests from the Supreme Soviet floor, with a few deputies charging that the committee was a veil for Yeltsin’s soaring influence.
One conservative Communist, Sazhi Umalatova, even walked out of the chamber in protest. “I can’t take part in a Supreme Soviet where conditions are being dictated to the president,” she said.
Chairing the Supreme Soviet until it can rule on Lukyanov’s political future, Ivan D. Laptev interrupted proceedings so that deputies could authorize a four-member delegation to fly to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital.
In recent days, Yeltsin has made it clear that he still supports some sort of union agreement, although along looser lines than what was being considered only 10 days ago. That position, and a sudden hint from Yeltsin’s office that the Russian Federation may have territorial demands, had alarmed the Ukrainians, who proclaimed the independence of their republic Saturday.
Included in the delegation was Yeltsin’s vice president, Alexander Rutskoi, and the deputy mayor of Moscow, Sergei B. Stankevich. They met with a group headed by Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk.
In a joint communique released after a day and night of talks, the two republics said they intend “to undertake joint actions with the goal of preventing the uncontrolled disintegration of the union state,” the Associated Press reported.
However, the wording also indicated that the agreement could form the basis of a new system of states in place of the old Soviet Union.
“As a result of the liquidation of the state coup in the U.S.S.R., there has occurred a new political situation, giving possibilities to accelerate democratic transformations and realize the sovereign rights of the republics to the fullest extent,” said the communique, read at a news conference.
“At the transitional period for supporting life-sustaining systems of the population and functioning of economics, it is expedient to form temporary interstate structures with the participation of all interested states--subjects of the former U.S.S.R.”
The talks also focused on the future of Soviet nuclear weapons. Yeltsin had offered to take into the Russian Federation all nuclear weapons now stationed in the Ukraine.
The statement today said Russia and the Ukraine have agreed “not to adopt unilateral decisions on military strategic issues.”
The communique, released at a pre-dawn news conference at the Ukrainian Parliament, referred repeatedly to the union in the past tense.
The communique said Russia and the Ukraine promised to respect Soviet commitments in international relations, including arms control agreements “and responsibility for securing international peace and stability.”
But the two republics appeared to claim the right to carry out diplomatic contacts with foreign countries themselves, circumventing the Kremlin. They concluded the document by saying they would exchange ambassadors.
Gorbachev’s leadership now seems resigned to letting the three Baltic republics, which were free until 1940, secede from the Soviet Union. But he had indicated that he was drawing the line at the idea of an independent Ukraine, which would deprive the union of 17% of its industrial potential and 22% of its farm production.
Worried over the intentions of Gorbachev and Yeltsin, a crowd of about 10,000 people waving the gold-and-blue Ukrainian banner had gathered outside the republic’s Parliament to insist on independence for their land, about as large as France.
A statement Monday from Yeltsin’s spokesman--that Russia would feel free to make territorial demands on republics leaving the Soviet Union, with the only exceptions being the three Baltic states--had been greeted in Kiev as a shot across the bow of the Ukraine’s campaign for independence.
BALTIC BORDER ACCORD: Visitors to Lithuania won’t need a Soviet visa. A6 / Other stories, photos A6-10, F1
Text of Article 64 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, under which suspected conspirators in coup against Mikhail S. Gorbachev were charged Wednesday:
Treason, an act intentionally committed by a citizen of the U.S.S.R. to the detriment of the state independence, the territorial inviolability or the military might of the U.S.S.R.; going over to the side of the enemy, espionage, transmission of a state or military secret to a foreign state, flight abroad or refusal to return from abroad to the U.S.S.R., rendering aid to a foreign state in carrying on hostile activity against the U.S.S.R. or a conspiracy for the purpose of seizing power, shall be punished by deprivation of freedom for a term of 10 to 15 years with confiscation of property, with or without additional exile from two to five years, or by death with confiscation of property.