The two-week state of emergency in Moscow is to be lifted on Monday. But extra police patrols are to stay in the capital to combat crime, a senior official said yesterday. In addition, President Yeltsin yesterday ordered a referendum on 12 December, the day of the parliamentary elections, to approve a new constitution.
Izvestia reported that many of the fighters behind the armed insurrection that prompted the 3 October declaration of the emergency had escaped from the Russian parliament building with their arms. They fled through secret tunnels, into a huge underground city where 'you could spend a whole life', a senior Interior Ministry official said yesterday.
Major-General Arkady Baskayev said there were so many tunnels that his forces were investigating only routes leading directly to the White House. They had searched the labyrinths in a radius of a mile from the building and had found about 20 people hiding there who gave up without resistance.
Rumours about secret bunkers, tunnels and railway lines have abounded in Moscow for decades but their existence was always denied officially during the Soviet era.
In respect of the state of emergency, Yevgeny Savostyanov, a deputy security minister, told Itar-Tass news agency that 'certain elements' would be 'adjusted to normal conditions to promote the fight against crime' once the emergency ended as scheduled on Monday.
Since the emergency was declared by President Yeltsin the militia has used the occasion to clamp down. In particular, this has affected traders from the Caucasus, blamed by Muscovites for the crime wave, prompting charges by human rights groups of discrimination. On Thursday, Omon police commandoes fired shots over the heads of Kurds on Pushkin Square protesting against constant requests to show identity papers. The demonstrators were detained.
Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor of Moscow, said a visa system might be introduced to control entry to the capital. The markets, in the hands of Chechens, Azeris and other nationalities from the south, had become 'a home for the mafia'.
Mr Yeltsin originally introduced the state of emergency, with an 11pm to 5am curfew, for one week. Last weekend, he extended it for a further week but moved the start of the curfew to midnight.
The Democratic Russia political movement, which supports Mr Yeltsin, said political meetings should be banned until one month before new parliamentary elections on 12 December in the interests of public order. Officials said such a ban was unlikely except for the nationalist and Communist movements already suspended under the state of emergency.Reuse content