Rebels could face treason charges: Moscow prosecutors push for leaders of parliamentary revolt to be charged under law which carries death penalty

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The Independent Online
THE SIX leaders of last weekend's armed revolt in Moscow were issued with formal arrest warrants yesterday pending charges which could include treason and organisation of mass disturbances.

Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi, Ruslan Khasbulatov, the parliamentary speaker, and the four others are expected to be notified of the actual charges next week. The Itar-Tass news agency said the prosecutor-general's office was leaning towards charging the men with treason under article 64 of the Russian Federation's legal code, and with organising an armed revolt under article 79. To make either charge stick, investigators have to find evidence showing that the uprising was planned.

Treason carries a possible death sentence, while the other charge carries a maximum jail sentence of 15 years. Responsibility for individual deaths - more than 170 people died in last weekend's fighting - would be covered by other articles of the law.

The other leaders formally told of their arrest in Lefortovo prison were Albert Makashov, a cashiered general who led the attack on the Moscow Ostankino television centre on Sunday, and the three men appointed as the rebels' defence, interior and security 'ministers'.

Albert Khamzayev, Mr Khasbulatov's lawyer - who also represents Gennady Yanayev, the man proclaimed Soviet president during the short-lived August 1991 coup against Mikhail Gorbachev - said yesterday that he would no longer represent Mr Khasbulatov. He did not explain why.

A Yeltsin aide, Sergei Filatov, said he thought it unlikely that the Communist Party, suspended under the state of emergency, should be banned from the parliamentary elections in December. Mr Yeltsin has invited international observers to monitor the voting.

On the diplomatic front, Georgia decided yesterday to join the Commonwealth of Independent States which will bring the number of former Soviet republics in the group to 12, after Georgian government forces lost control of the town of Sukhumi to Abkhazian separatists last week.

Eduard Shevardnadze, the Georgian President, announced the decision after meeting Mr Yeltsin in the Kremlin. Earlier, Mr Shevardnadze had attacked Russia, which had brokered a peace agreement in Abkhazia, for allowing the region to come under separatist control. Georgia's decision to join the commonwealth should be finalised at the body's next summit meeting.

When the CIS was set up at the end of 1991, Zviad Gamsakhurdia, Mr Shevardnadze's nationalist predecessor, boycotted the organisation because he believed its creation represented an attempt by Moscow to maintain Russian hegemony over other former Soviet republics.

Mr Shervardnadze's announcement was an implicit acknowledgement that Georgia can do little without Russian support, especially as pro-Gamsakhurdia rebels still oppose his rule.

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