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
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Tiger Woods and Lindsey Vonn are breaking up after nearly three years together
peopleFormer couple announce separation in posts on their websites
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’
tvThe Enfield Haunting, TV review
The Mattehorn stands reflected in Leisee lake near Sunnegga station on June 30, 2013 near Zermatt, Switzerland
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living