3 Russian Coup Plotters Accused in May Day Brawl


The prosecutor general’s office Wednesday asked Russia’s Supreme Court to jail the former head of the KGB and two other former Kremlin leaders, who, while on trial for their roles in the failed 1991 putsch, are now accused of helping provoke a bloody May Day brawl.

Democratic leaders said hard-line Russian lawmakers who helped organize the May 1 march should be stripped of their parliamentary immunity so they could face investigation.

The moves were part of an evident crackdown on Communists, nationalists and their allies in the conservative Parliament, aimed at averting more street violence as another holiday weekend approaches.


President Boris N. Yeltsin and his backers seem emboldened both by their victory in last month’s referendum and by the public’s shock at the videotaped spectacle of riot police and die-hard Communists clubbing each other in a square named for cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.

A 25-year-old policeman died Wednesday of head injuries suffered in Saturday’s melee. Riot-control officer Vladimir Tolokneyev was one of more than 400 people injured in the fracas that began when riot police blocked the path of May Day demonstrators who had deviated from their approved parade route.

Fellow officers told the Moscow Tribune newspaper that Tolokneyev was struck in the head by demonstrators with an iron bar, then crushed between two trucks.

Russian television aired a brief obituary of the young father, the footage of his boyish photograph juxtaposed with the angry faces of rock-throwing Communist protesters and scored with a Beethoven funeral march.

Yeltsin sent a telegram of condolence to Tolokneyev’s family. “One thing can be said for sure: Vladimir died for a new Russia,” it said.

In talks with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, Yeltsin vowed that no more “provocations” will be permitted this Sunday, when tens of thousands of veterans will parade through Moscow’s streets to celebrate the 1945 victory over Nazi Germany.


Yeltsin’s surrogates have accused revanchist Communists, the hard-line coup plotters of August, 1991, and reactionary members of the Congress of People’s Deputies of provoking the clash.

Leaders of the National Salvation Front and the Russian Communist Party, the major organizers of the May Day march, claim that unarmed, peaceful demonstrators exercising their right to free expression were mercilessly beaten by riot police. They have vowed to stage another protest march on Victory Day.

However, Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow on Wednesday turned down requests for parade permits for the Communist Party and another anti-reform group.

The participation of three former Kremlin officials in an event that sparked the worst political violence since the 1991 attempt by hard-liners to overthrow Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev has not gone unnoticed by the many Russian citizens inclined to believe in conspiracies.

Gennady I. Yanayev, Gorbachev’s vice president, former Soviet Parliament Chairman Anatoly I. Lukyanov and former KGB head Vladimir A. Kryuchkov, whom Gorbachev called the mastermind of the attempted coup, have been released from prison on their own recognizance as they stand trial for treason.

Now with little else to do because their trial is in recess, the accused coup plotters have given news conferences, pledged to work for the restoration of the old Soviet Union and become folk heroes to some nostalgic for the Soviet regime.


On Wednesday, the Russian prosecutor’s office asked the Supreme Court to return the three to jail, saying that “the accused engaged in political activities destabilizing the situation in society,” according to the Itar-Tass news agency.

Lukyanov’s lawyer, Alexander M. Gofshtein, protested that no one has accused the trio of having any connection to the death of the police officer, the injuries or any calls to violence.

“Strictly speaking, any political activity destabilizes the situation in the country,” Gofshtein said. “These people took part in the rally as rank-and-file demonstrators, just as ordinary citizens.”

Within hours of the May Day clash, Parliament Chairman Ruslan I. Khasbulatov appointed a commission to investigate. On Wednesday, he accused pro-Yeltsin forces of wanting to remake Russia into a giant “concentration camp.”

Objecting to the domination of the legislative branch by conservatives and Communist Party holdovers, reform-minded lawmakers announced they would try to disband the Congress of People’s Deputies altogether by organizing a mass resignation.

Russia’s White House, where the legislative leadership is ensconced, “is emerging as the headquarters of the forces of violence, bloodshed and arbitrary rule,” said lawmaker Boris A. Zolotukhin, one of 40 members of the Congess who signed the call for a mass walkout.


Despite a 2-to-1 referendum vote in favor of early parliamentary elections, many doubt that the reformist wing is strong enough to force the 1,033 deputies out.

To deprive conservatives of a quorum would require the resignation of at least a third of the Congress, or about 345 lawmakers, but only about 200 can be considered reliable Yeltsin allies.

Only those who have an offer of a better job--whether in the Yeltsin administration or elsewhere--are likely to leave their posts, said lawmaker Igor V. Muravev of New Policy, a moderate opposition group.

“Who knows what awaits them after they resign?” Muravev said.

Alexei Kuznetsov, a researcher in The Times’ Moscow Bureau, contributed to this report.