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.'

Life and Style
A nearly completed RoboThespian robot inside the Engineered Arts workshop is tested in Penryn, England. The Cornish company, operating from an industrial unit near Falmouth, is the world's only maker of commercially available life sized humanoid robots
techSuper-intelligent robots could decide destroying the human race is the kindest thing to do
News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
newsComedian Lee Hurst started trend with first tweet using the hashtag
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
Extras
indybest

Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition