[From 1993:] Russia Mourns Victims of Uprising

File Photo of Parliament Building Billowing Smoke in 1993

(Moscow Times – themoscowtimes.com – Anne Barnard, David Filipov – October 8, 1993)

Moscow mourned the human cost of this week’s political bloodshed Thursday, as President Boris Yeltsin suspended the Constitutional Court he has accused of complicity in the violence.

Several thousand friends, strangers and comrades in arms filed past the coffins of six policemen killed last Sunday and Monday in violence triggered by a rebellion by supporters of Russia’s dissolved parliament.

Five soldiers from the elite Dzerzhinsky Division of Interior Ministry troops were also honored Thursday in a separate, closed ceremony at the ministry headquarters.

As the official death toll from the fighting continued to rise to 171, Yeltsin took a further step against his political opposition, suspending the court which his decree said had twice “put the country on the verge of civil war”.

In a televised address to the nation Wednesday, Yeltsin had accused the court of contributing to the violence. The decree said the court would be reconstituted only when a new constitution has been drafted, adopted and brought into effect.

Yeltsin’s spokesman, Vyacheslav Kostikov, denied reports of panic and disarray in the president’s administration during the critical hours of Sunday’s rebellion, after parliament supporters overran police lines at the White House.

Sergei Parkhomenko, a reporter from the newspaper Segodnya who was in the Kremlin on Sunday, had said that Yeltsin advisers seemed out of control until late in the night.

He also questioned the military’s loyalty to Yeltsin, concluding that the generals had waited to see who would win a shootout between police and rebels at the Ostankino television center before committing their troops.

“The Defense Ministry and personally Defense Minister Pavel Grachev fulfilled their task completely”, Kostikov responded. “They fully complied with their civic and soldier’s duty and obeyed without hesitation the order of the commander in chief”.

Parkhomenko’s report had been censored from Tuesday’s edition of Segodnya but was published Thursday after censorship was ended. Kostikov nevertheless warned the media against letting “provocateurs” publicize their reports.

Yeltsin had declared Thursday a citywide day of mourning for victims of the fighting, and in a rash of decrees set up a charity fund for victim’s families while ordering authorities to speed up the prosecution of rebel leaders. Viktor Anpilov, the hardline leader of the Communist Workers Party who had been at large for two days, was captured by Security Ministry troops at his dacha in Tula, 180 kilometers south of Moscow on Thursday.

Another rebel leader, Officer’s Union chief Stanislav Terekhov, was formally charged with assault and stealing firearms.

Interior Minister Viktor Yerin announced at a press conference that only about 200 people arrested during the disturbances are still in custody, while some 1, 100 have been released – including every parliament deputy but for the speaker, Ruslan Khasbulatov.

Yerin also said 49 bodies have been found in the White House, adding to the earlier provisional total of 122 dead.

Accompanied by military dirges and the tears of family members and strangers alike, city and government officials eulogized the dead as “defenders of the fatherland” who gave their lives to protect peaceful citizens from “armed bandits”.

“Russia, its people and its leaders must learn a solemn lesson from this bloodshed and do everything in their power so that the tragedy cannot happen again”, Yeltsin said in a statement to mark the occasion.

Yerin was among mourners attending the service at the police department’s cultural center for the six policemen. Also present were First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, former Interior Minister Vadim Bakatin and Moscow police chief Vladimir Pankratov.

Widows and mothers in black shawls sat beside the coffins of the victims, who ranged in age and rank from Colonel Ivan Shishayev, 53, to Junior Sergeant Anton Farelyuk, 21, who had been on the force for just six months.

A service for all victims on both sides of the conflict was held in the morning at Moscow’s Russian Orthodox center, Bogoyavlensky Sobor, the turquoise-blue, golden-domed cathedral near metro Baumanskaya.

There was no organized ceremony planned for the parliament supporters, according to Andrei Varenya, a spokesman for Mayor Yury Luzhkov.

Novoslobodskaya Ulitsa, the street where the police funeral took place, was closed and guarded by two armored personnel carriers because authorities feared hardline snipers might disrupt the ceremony, said Varenya.

Vyacheslav Voroshchov, the Interior Ministry’s chief of social and legal services, who attended the funeral, said a total of 12 police and five soldiers had been killed in the fighting, while 94 police and soldiers were wounded.

The hall was too small for six coffins and six sets of bereaved relatives. Ushers urged teary-eyed mourners to “move along”, and goose-stepping guards had to nudge photographers aside to take turns watching over the bodies.

Yeltsin also issued a decree granting families of slam police and interior Ministry officers sums of 60 times their monthly salaries. Service people who suffered serious injuries are to receive 30 times their monthly salaries.