Russian Crisis: The last hours of the White House rebels: Helen Womack in Moscow describes the day the President's troops, tanks and helicopters took revenge on his enemies

SUNDAY NIGHT belonged to Boris Yeltsin's enemies as, after forcing police to abandon the White House area, they seized the the mayor of Moscow's office and attacked the Ostankino television tower with grenade launchers. But the dawn was the President's as he took revenge by launching an assault with tanks and helicopters on the parliament building.

The struggle dragged on until almost dusk because, Mr Yeltsin's military aide Dmitry Volkogonov said, the troops were eschewing haste to minimise casualties among innocent people. But it ended with members of the special forces running through the corridors of the maze-like, and by this time blackened, White House shouting 'Lay down your arms and follow us out' and with dozens of hardliners emerging with their hands over their heads. The rebel leaders, self-declared 'president' Alexander Rutskoi and parliamentary chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov, were taken into custody and will be prosecuted.

This is how the day's events unfolded. At five o'clock in the morning, after some 62 people had been killed overnight, fighting died down at Ostankino and the broadcasting centre remained in the hands of pro-Yeltsin forces. The President made one last attempt to negotiate but his envoys came back empty-handed from acrimonious talks with representatives of parliament and it was clear further violence was inevitable.

The evening before, Mr Yeltsin had summoned paratroopers from Tula, south of Moscow, and the elite Kantemir tank division to help him enforce a state of emergency. Some of their armoured personnel carriers (APCs) were outside the White House and at 7.15 they came under attack from gunners inside the parliament building. At eight o'clock, troops and APCs loyal to Mr Yeltsin began circling the building and answering enemy fire. The noise and pall of smoke that hung over the city shocked commuters coming in from the suburbs to work.

At nine o'clock Mr Yeltsin appeared on television, looking grim and saying there could be no forgiveness for the leaders of 'this armed mutiny planned in advance. They (Mr Rutskoi and Khasbulatov) hoped that the citizens of Russia would believe their lies. They hoped for quick victory. But the armed mutiny is doomed. Troops are entering Moscow to restore order, calm and peace.'

Thirty-five minutes later helicopters armed with rockets were hovering overhead to back up ground forces advancing on the White House in a blaze of gunfire. At 9.40 troops, supported by tanks, stormed parliament and quickly took two floors of the building. Mr Rutskoi immediately appealed for talks with Mr Yelstin. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin replied that the assault would only be stopped if the rebels surrendered their arms and came out waving white flags. A white flag did appear at one window and, at 10.15, Mr Chernomyrdin ordered shooting to stop in that section of the building. But although Mr Rutskoi seemed ready to surrender, Mr Khasbulatov, who has reneged on countless agreements with the President, said desire for a ceasefire and negotiations did not mean the parliament side was giving in, so fighting continued.

The pressure finally forced out a few unidentified men with white flags at 1.30pm and they held talks on the embankment of the Moscow River with the President of the Caucasus region of Ingushetia, Ruslan Aushev. Gunfire continued to crackle but was now less intense. Then at 3pm Mr Yeltsin's Defence Minister, General Pavel Grachev, arrived for more negotiations and the battle was effectively over.

Hostages and journalists who had been trapped in the White House were released and hardline fighters began coming out with their hands in the air. For some time the whereabouts of Mr Rutskoi and Mr Khasbulatov were unclear and Muscovites speculated that perhaps they had committed suicide to avoid capture. But as darkness fell, they too came out and were driven away in buses to a 'place of safety'.

Hardline generals Albert Makashov, Vladislav Achalov, Andrei Dunayev and Viktor Barannikov were also arrested.

By this time Mr Yeltsin, who spent the night and early part of the day in his Kremlin office, had gone home. But not before he had issued decrees banning conservative newspapers such as Pravda and Den and ordered an 11pm to 5am curfew, a necessary measure since a few snipers were still shooting into the evening, though the main battle was over.

Earlier in the day the President's aide, had said 500 people had been killed in the White House but he later withdrew this, saying a defector had exaggerated the toll. Whatever the final number of victims, it will still be large.

Mr Yeltsin's assistant, Sergei Stankevich, said: 'The President is really sad that he did not manage to prevent this outbreak of violence. But at the same time he is absolutely sure that he did his best to continue negotiations. The full responsibility for this violence is placed on the leaders of the White House.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas