Gorbachev accused of orchestrating 1991 coup in Russia

Gorbachev accused of orchestrating 1991 coup in Russia

"Gorbachev himself had planned and executed all the further steps," alleged Vasiliy Starodubtsov, a member of the State Committee for Emergency Situation (GKChP) in an interview published today.

Starodubtsov alleged that Gorbachev had orchestrated the so called hardliners 'coup' which sealed the fate of the USSR.

Calling Gorbachev a 'coward, traitor', Starodubtsov claimed that the then Soviet President knew that he was unable to stop the disintegration of the country, so he told the putsch leaders to go ahead.

Russia today marks two decades since Soviet hardliners precipitated the demise of the USSR with a botched coup August 19, 1991.

80-year-old Gorbachev is a marginal figure in Russian politics today and has often expressed his unhappiness with the current situation in Russia.

Starodubtsov said that on the eve of the coup, KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov had talked to Gorbachev over phone, who was holidaying in Crimea's Foros resort.

"In principle they talked about the need to declare emergency in the country," Starodubtsov, now a Communist Party lawmaker, was quoted as saying by 'Moskovskaya Pravda'.

He said that feeling not quiet well and we should declare a state of emergency without him. That's how GKChP appeared without Gorbachev.

"In substance, he said: Ok boys, take the steering, meanwhile, I will take sunbath at the sea sand," claimed Starodubtsov, who after clemency, pursued a successful political carrier.

He was Governor of key Tula region for eight years since 1997 and later became the member of the Federation Council - the Upper House of Parliament.

Starodubtsov categorically denied that the 'Gang of Eight' formally led by the then Vice President Gennady Yanayev wanted to grab state power in the USSR to avert its disintegration.

"Why we need to grab power, we already had it. All the leaders of the great country were the members of the GKChP: Vice President, Prime Minister, all the Siloviks (Defence and Interior ministers and KGB Chief)

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the failed hard-line Communist coup, Gorbachev conceded that the putsch leaders had flown to his seaside Foros residence and asked him to declare emergency.

When he refused, he was virtually taken a prisoner, without any link with the outside world, till the resistance posed by Russian President Boris Yeltsin led to the failure of coup three days later on August 21, 1991.

Gorbachev claimed that any active attempt on his part would have led to a civil war in USSR along the lines of bloody fragmentation of Yugoslavia.

Starodubtsov said they declared imposition of the state of the emergency and took on themselves the whole responsibility for the order in the country.

Although the hardliners wanted to preserve the USSR, they unwittingly speeded up its disintegration in less then four months later.

The coup leaders moved more than 4,000 troops, 360 tanks and 420 armored personnel carriers into Moscow for the siege of the Russian White House - then seat of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation (Parliament).

However, some of the troops crossed over to Yeltsin, and none saw any direct military action.

An attack on the White House was planned, but never carried out - largely because Generals Pavel Grachyov and Alexander Lebed, who commanded airborne troops ordered into Moscow, did not support the operation.

Grachyov later became defense minister, and Lebed ran for president in 1996 and later served as Krasnoyarsk governor.