|To live is so startling, it leaves little time for anything else. - Emily Dickinson|
No. 156, 19 August 1991
COUP IN USSR COMMITTEE FOR STATE OF EMERGENCY REPLACES GORBACHEV. A newly-created State Committee for the State of Emergency in the USSR has taken over power in the Soviet Union, Radio Moscow announced at 6:45 A.M. this morning (August 19). The committee consists of first deputy chairman of the Defense Council, Oleg Baklanov; KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov; Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov; Minister of Internal Affairs Boris Pugo; Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov; Vice President Gennadii Yanaev; Vasilii Starodubtsev, representing kolkhoz peasants; and Aleksandr Tizyakov, representing the military-industrial complex. There is no one explicitly representing the CPSU, even though all the committee members are Communists. The committee issued a statement proclaiming a state of emergency throughout the country. The statement was signed by three members of the committee--Baklanov, Pavlov and Yanaev. (Alexander Rahr) YANAEV TAKES OVER PRESIDENCY, INVOKES CONSTITUTION. Yanaev released a decree this morning, according to TASS, which announced that he was assuming the responsibilities of USSR President as of today (August 19) "in connection with Mikhail Gorbachev's inability, for reasons of health, to carry out his duties as President of the USSR." The decree cited as its basis Article 127, point 7 of the USSR Constitution. (Sallie Wise) COMMITTEE BANS DEMOS AND STRIKES; TAKES CONTROL OF MEDIA. Committee for the State of Emergency issued its first decree, as reported by TASS this morning, banning all rallies, demonstrations, and strikes, and announcing the control the mass media by special bodies of the Committee. The decree instructs the ministries of Defense and Internal Affairs, the Procuracy, and the KGB to ensure public order and state security. It said a curfew would be imposed if necessary. At the same time, the decree orders industrial enterprises to function normally. The decree also says activities by political parties and mass movements will be banned if they interfere with normalization of the situation. (Sallie Wise) YANAEV SEEKS TO REASSURE FOREIGN POWERS. In an address to world heads of state and governments and the UN General Secretary, dated August 19, Vice President Gennadii Yanaev, who has been named acting USSR President, assured the rest of the world that "the emergency measures [adopted in the USSR] in no way touch on the international obligations that the USSR has taken upon itself or on the treaties and agreements currently in force." Given the potential for internal conflict that the coup creates, foreign powers are unlikely to be reassured. (Elizabeth Teague) COUP PRECIPITATED BY IMMINENT SIGNING OF UNION TREATY. In the days immediately before the coup, opposition to the Union treaty had been building to a head with criticism from the USSR Cabinet of Ministers, the head of the USSR State Bank, and RSFSR deputies. Both Gorbachev and RSFSR President Boris Yeltsin were, for different reasons, however, determined to push ahead with the signing of the treaty tomorrow (August 20), though it appeared that the document was an unsatisfactory compromise. The appeal of the Committee for the State of Emergency described the results of the March 17 referendum on the preservation of the Union as having been trampled on. The Committee promised that it would conduct a broad nationwide discussion of the draft of the new Union treaty in which everyone would have the right to consider the document in a calm atmosphere and determine their attitude towards it. (Ann Sheehy) LUK'YANOV'S STATEMENT ON UNION TREATY. A statement by chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet Anatolii Luk'yanov on his view of the Union treaty was distributed today, TASS reported August 19. Luk'yanov, who had been trying in vain for some time to defend the standpoint of the all-Union parliament, complained that the text did not reflect the results of the March 17 referendum, and that changes made to the text since the Supreme Soviet debated the final draft had not taken sufficient account of the Supreme Soviet's objections. He cited in particular that the text would have allowed the republics to suspend the operation of all-Union laws, thus perpetuating the "war of laws." Luk'yanov called for further discussion of the treaty by the USSR Supreme Soviet and the USSR Congress of People's Deputies, and suggested that there should possible be another referendum in connection with the adoption of a new constitution. (Ann Sheehy) INDEPENDENT RADIO AND TV SILENCED. RSFSR television did not start broadcasting at 11:30 A.M. this morning, as scheduled. The Committee for the State of Emergency seems to have stopped all independent media immediately after the coup. All four Soviet TV channels available at RFE/RL (including those broadcasting to completely different time zones) broadcast classical music throughout this morning. This was followed by a report on the happy married life of a Soviet football star, then by a football match, followed by a ballet. The broadcast was interrupted periodically by the solemn reading of the first decrees of the Committee for the State of Emergency. A Soviet TV speaker announced this morning that all TV programs across the USSR will air only the programs of Central TV's First Channel. Western news agencies have reported that the independent radio Ekho Moskvy was occupied by KGB officers and ordered to stop broadcasting. (Julia Wishnevsky and Elizabeth Teague) TANKS ON MOSCOW STREETS. CNN this morning showed what Soviet TV did not--Moscow being patrolled by tanks. CNN showed a column of tanks entering Moscow from the west along the main thoroughfare, Kutuzovsky Prospekt, and ripping up the pavements as it moved in the direction of the Kremlin. RFE/RL's Russian service has received reports of demonstrations on Red Square, but these have not been yet confirmed. (Elizabeth Teague) GORBACHEV UNDER ARREST? CNN reported (11:00 CEST) that, according to sources in Moscow, Gorbachev has been placed under arrest. His whereabouts are unknown. He had been due to return to Moscow from his holiday in the Crimea in time for the signing of the Union treaty tomorrow. (Elizabeth Teague) YELTSIN DEFIANT. CNN also reported, which Soviet TV has not yet, on a press conference given by RSFSR president Boris Yeltsin at the headquarters of the RSFSR government at 1100 Moscow time on August 19. Describing the coup as "madness" and "an illegal act," Yeltsin said he himself would "never be removed by anyone but the people of Russia." His credentials, Yeltsin repeated, come "from the people." Yeltsin called for Gorbachev's reinstatement and appealed to the Moscow population to stage a huge protest demonstration in defense of democracy. He expressed the hope that leaders of other Soviet republics would support his position. Yeltsin added that he had been unable to speak to Gorbachev. After his press conference, Yeltsin stood on a tank outside the RSFSR government building and appealed to Soviet citizens to defy the Committee for the State of Emergency, Western agencies reported from Moscow. Yeltsin told a large group of demonstrators that strikes are already breaking out in opposition to the takeover. Yeltsin called for a nationwide protest strike, and said people are following his appeal as soon as they hear it. Yeltsin also demanded that Gorbachev, who he said is being detained at his holiday home in the Crimea, be allowed to appear on television to address the country. The crowd outside the RSFSR building seems, for the moment, according to CNN, to have stopped the advance of tanks toward the center of Moscow. (Elizabeth Teague, Alexander Rahr and Sallie Wise) NAZARBAEV'S WHEREABOUTS UNKNOWN. Another man likely to prove key actor as the drama unfolds is the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbaev. Nazarbaev was quoted by TASS August 17 as saying he planned to fly to Moscow with Yeltsin on August 18, in preparation for the signing of the Union treaty on August 20. Where Nazarbaev is now, is unknown. (Elizabeth Teague) AFANS'EV PREDICTS MASSIVE RESISTANCE. Yurii Afanas'ev, the Soviet parliamentarian and leader of the "Democratic Russia" movement, predicted August 19 that there will be massive resistance in the USSR to Gorbachev's ouster. Afanas'ev was interviewed during a visit to RFE/RL in Munich. He said he would return to Moscow as quickly as possible, because "We must continue our work there." He said he knew he might be arrested on his return but was ready to take the risk. He predicted that parts of the armed forces would refuse to follow the lead of defense minister Yazov and asserted his belief that violence would not stop the democratic forces in the USSR, merely change the ways in which they work. (Chuck Lambeth and Elizabeth Teague) COUP NOT UNEXPECTED. The anti-Gorbachev coup was not entirely unexpected. Apart from the warnings of an impending Stalinist dictatorship made by liberals, such as Gorbachev's closest associates Eduard Shevardnadze and Aleksandr Yakovlev, right-wingers themselves have been rather open about their intentions. Even in early 1990, a engineer called Yurii Brovko in a little-known newspaper of the Moscow builders' union called, in so many words, on the military to stage a coup to save the country from Jews; Brovko has been supported in the military press. In the past months, the idea of a coup has became a regular theme in the conservative press, such as the monthly Nash sovremennik (No. 6) and the newspaper of the hardline "Soyuz" group of USSR people's deputies. On July 23, Sovetskaya Rossiya published a manifesto, Word to the People, calling on for a coup and introducing emergency rule. The manifesto was signed by the first deputy ministers of defense and internal affairs, as well as by kolkhoz leader Vasilii Starodubtsev and industrialist Aleksandr Tizyakov, who are members of the State Committee for the State of Emergency. (Julia Wishnevsky) FROM 1964 TO 1991: A COMPARISON. The announcement of the coup in the Soviet Union started with an implausible reference to Gorbachev's "ill health," exactly as in 1964 after a CPSU CC plenum had overthrown Nikita Khrushchev. However, there is a significant difference. No explanation for the coup was offered in 1964, while today, the Committee for the State of Emergency did bother to explain its reasoning. (Julia Wishnevsky) CABINET OF MINISTERS MET BEFORE COUP. One day before the apparent coup in the Soviet Union, the Presidium of the USSR Cabinet of Ministers met to discuss the impact of the signing of the Union Treaty on the center, TASS reported on August 17. The Presidium issued a statement saying that the present draft of the Union Treaty would deprive the center of power and destroy the Soviet Union's economic and political integrity. The Presidium stated that the majority of the republics are not able to stand on their own feet. The Presidium urged representatives of the center and republican leaders to alter the present draft. Gorbachev seems not to have attended the meeting. (Alexander Rahr) LANDSBERGIS ADDRESSES LITHUANIA. In an address broadcast by Radio Independent Lithuania on August 19, Lithuanian Supreme Council Chairman Vytautas Landsbergis warned that the new Soviet leadership poses a threat to Lithuanian independence, and appealed for calm in case martial law or a puppet regime is imposed. "Our greatest weapon is our spirit," Landsbergis said, calling for civil disobedience and non-collaboration in the event of a dictatorship. Landsbergis asked parliament deputies to meet at the Supreme Council as soon as possible for an emergency session. Regardless of whatever will happen, he said, "we know that the darkest hour of the night is before the dawn." (Gytis Liulevicius) SOVIETS TAKE OVER KAUNAS RADIO AND TELEVISION. On August 19 Radio Independent Lithuania reported that Soviet troops had taken over the Kaunas radio and television station that morning. In an statement broadcast in Lithuanian, Russian, Polish, English, German, and French, the radio said that it was the last station of independent Lithuania and warned that its transmissions might be stopped. They were. Landsbergis told RFE/RL's Lithuanian service to inform his deputy Kazimieras Motieka, who was visiting Germany, not to return to Lithuania and to be ready to represent Lithuania from abroad. The radio also appealed to the people to gather at the parliament and protect it. (Saulius Girnius) GORBUNOVS ADDRESSES THE PEOPLE OF LATVIA. Addressing the people of Latvia at 11:00 A.M. on Radio Riga today, Latvian Supreme Council Chairman Anatolijs Gorbunovs said that a coup d'etat has taken place in the USSR; power has been seized by an unconstitutional state of emergency committee, and that this unlawful committee has no authority in Latvia. He urged the people not cooperate with unlawful groups. Gorbunovs stressed that currently the situation in Latvia is quiet, that governing bodies at all levels are functioning normally, and that there was no reason to declare a state of emergency in Latvia. He asked the people to maintain peace and order, and, should the need arise, to engage in peaceful protest. In conclusion he emphasized that all rightful power and authority belong to the people of Latvia. (Dzintra Bungs) LATVIAN LEADERS CONSIDER USSR STATE OF EMERGENCY. This morning the Latvian Supreme Council Presidium and the Council of Ministers met at 10:00 A.M. to consider the implications for Latvia of the USSR state of emergency. According to Radio Riga of August 19, at noon today the Supreme Council is holding a special plenary session. The board of the People's Front of Latvia is also holding a special meeting at noon. The leadership of the Latvian Democratic Labor Party (formed by liberal communists who split from the conservative, pro-Moscow Latvian Communist Party in the spring of 1990), announced its support for the speech of Gorbunovs, thus indicating that it does not advocate the policies of those who announced the USSR state of emergency. (Dzintra Bungs) PEOPLE'S FRONT ACTIVATES ITS OWN EMERGENCY PROCEDURES IN LATVIA. Speaking at 1:30 P.M. today (August 19) on Radio Riga after the board meeting of the People's Front of Latvia, PFL chairman Romualdas Razukas urged the front's members to activate the emergency procedures drawn up on December 11, 1990. These procedures were used in January 1991 when Soviet forces attempted to topple the Latvian government and disband the Latvian Supreme Council. Razukas said that while the danger of an attempt by Moscow to impose a governor general in the Baltics exists, people should remain calm and determined to pursue the course toward independence that they have chosen; should the need arise, they should be ready to engage in civil disobedience. Razukas also said that the 52nd anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact on August 23 will be observed as planned. (Dzintra Bungs) USSR - ALL-UNION TOPICS YAKOVLEV QUITS THE CPSU. Aleksandr Yakovlev has announced his resignation from the CPSU. His statement was published in Izvestia on August 16, the day after the Soviet media had reported the recommendation by the Buro of the Presidium of the CPSU Central Control Commision that Yakovlev be expelled from the CPSU. Yakovlev wrote that no one had talked to him before the decision was made. (In an interview with RSFSR radio and television later that day, Yakovlev revealed that he had learned about this decision only because his wife, by sheer chance, had switched on the radio and called him up.) Yakovlev termed the way he was treated by the CCC "a personal insult and violation of a Party member's rights." In such a situation, Yakovlev concluded, he considered it "no longer possible, and indeed, immoral to serve the cause of democratic reforms within the framework of the Soviet Communist party." (Julia Wishnevsky) YAKOVLEV WARNED OF STALINIST COUP D'ETAT. In the same statement, which now appears prescient, Yakovlev wrote that "an influential Stalinist group has formed within the Party's leadership core" and that reactionaries are planning a vindictive Stalinist coup d'etat. Despite their liberal declarations, Yakovlev wrote, the leadership of the CPSU is ridding the Party of its reformist "democratic" wing in order to be prepared "for social revenge --a Party and state coup." In an interview with RSFSR radio and television, Yakovlev said that the "revanchist," Stalinist movement consists of top Party officials as well as commanders of the military and law and order bodies. "I cannot name a single regional Party secretary who does not participate in it," Yakovlev told Vesti August 16. (Julia Wishnevsky) GORBACHEV DID NOT CONTROL THE PARTY, YAKOVLEV SAYS. Asked whether CPSU General Secretary and his old friend Mikhail Gorbachev had been aware in advance that the Party Control Commision was going to expel Yakovlev from the CPSU, Yakovlev said that he did not know. (Vesti, Radio Rossii, Moskovskii komsomolets, August 16). "I feel," Yakovlev added, that in his capacity as USSR President Gorbachev "does exercise control in the country," but as the General Secretary he controls the Party "only to a very small extent." (Julia Wishnevsky) STATE TELEVISION SEIZED BY CPSU. On August 16, the popular youth show VID was interrupted by a forty-minute round table discussion of three CPSU leaders discussing the draft of a new Party program. This discussion was not in the program schedule, nor was there an interview with the new RSFSR CP leader, Valentin Kuptsov, to have been broadcast in primetime, after the Vremya newscast, on August 15. At the same time, elected officials--whether RSFSR President Yeltsin or the mayors of Moscow and Leningrad--were not allowed to air their views on Central TV, except in the news. Moreover, Vremya, which on August 15 had broadcast the CPSU Control Commission statement that Yakovlev should be expelled from the Party, did not bother to mention his statement on the following day. (Julia Wishnevsky) MDR SUPPORTS YAKOVLEV. Yakovlev's concern over the purge of reformers from the CPSU was echoed, also on August 16, in a statement by the Movement for Democratic Reforms, and in Eduard Shevardnadze's interview with Vesti. The CCC decision to expelled Yakovlev, whom Shevardnadze called "a war hero and a hero of perestroika," is indeed a unusual development. Since Nikita Khrushchev rid himself of an "anti-Party" group of Stalin's accomplices in the late 1950s, no former Politburo member has been expelled from the CPSU, despite the charges of corruption and abuse waged against some of them in the Soviet media. (Julia Wishnevsky) GERASHCHENKO REEMPHASIZES OPPOSITION TO THE UNION TREATY. In an interview with Sovetskaya Rossiya August 17, Chairman of the USSR Gosbank Viktor Gerashchenko reaffirmed and reinforced his opposition to the Union treaty in its latest formulation. (He had voiced objections in last week's edition of Moscow News, other Soviet media, and in an interview with The Financial Times). Gerashchenko called the lack of adequate provisions on monetary issues "an error and a big mistake." He cited Western expert support for a unified state monetary and credit policy. And he spelled out the amendments that he deemed necessary to the text of the Union Treaty, implying that he would resign if the changes were not made. (Keith Bush) MORE ON PAVLOV'S PRESS CONFERENCE. Further details of Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov's press conference of August 13 have emerged. The account carried in Izvestia of August 14 makes it clear that a draft presidential decree calling for the introduction of a state of emergency and the universal mobilization of transport had indeed been prepared but the USSR Cabinet of Ministers had decided against its adoption. Pavlov criticized the RSFSR decision to raise coal miners' wages, claiming that Kuzbass wages were now four to five times higher than in Karaganda. And he condemned the RSFSR for agreeing to wage increases that would put the republican budget a further 25 billion rubles in the red, in addition to its existing deficit of 81 billion rubles. (Keith Bush) USSR - IN THE REPUBLICS GEORGIAN GOVERNMENT SHAKEUP. Georgian Prime Minister Tengiz Sigua resigned his post August 18 following criticism of his government by President Zviad Gamsakhurdia for failing to reverse the serious economic crisis in the republic, TASS reported August 18. Gamsakhurdia also fired foreign minister Giorgi Khoshtaria and deputy prime minister Otar Kvilitaya. First deputy prime minister Murman Omanidze was named to succeed Khoshtaria. In an emotional TV broadcast August 17 Gamskahurdia charged that unnamed enemies were engaging in "sabotage and betrayal" inside Georgia, Western agencies reported August 18. (Liz Fuller) HOSTAGE DRAMA IN NKAO CONTINUES. After initially demanding the release of Armenians held by Azerbaijan, the Armenian militants who last week took hostage up to 40 Soviet MVD troops demanded August 16 that the Armenians be transferred to the RSFSR for their cases to be investigated there. More troops were moved into the region over the weekend as negotiations continued; on August 18 two Soviet parliamentarians flew to the NKAO to join the negotiations, Democratic Russia reported August 18. Three people were killed and eleven injured in shooting in the region August 18, Vremya reported that evening quoting Azerbaijani MVD officials. (Liz Fuller) YELTSIN IN ALMA-ATA. Yeltsin spent much of August 17 in talks with Nazarbaev, according to Radio Moscow and TASS reports of August 17 and 18. The official reason for the high-level visit of RSFSR officials to Kazakhstan was the exchange of documents ratifying a friendship treaty concluded between the two republics last November. Russian TV broadcast a a press conference of the two leaders on August 17, in which Nazarbaev said that he and Yeltsin had worked out a proposal for a single economic entity that would embrace all 15 republics. According to TASS, Yeltsin told the press conference that the two presidents were dissatisfied with those clauses of the Union Treaty that had resulted from compromise and hoped to further reduce the power of the center. (Bess Brown)
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