Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Government Prepares Case against Soviet Coup Plotters

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Government Prepares Case against Soviet Coup Plotters

Article excerpt

LEADERS of the failed August coup believed former President Mikhail Gorbachev would go along with their effort to preserve the Soviet Union, investigators say.

"This factor was decisive in that it compelled them to try to seize power," says Yevgeny Lisov, chief investigator in the coup case.

"We have no evidence Gorbachev planned to support the coup, though the coup conspirators hoped that his support would be forthcoming," Mr. Lisov said at a news conference Tuesday.

Investigators have compiled 125 volumes of evidence during the four-and-a-half-month investigation, Lisov said. No trial date has been set and no decision made on whether the proceedings will be open to the public.

In all, 15 people are accused of attempting to seize power during the Aug. 19-21 putsch. If convicted, they face 10 to 15 years in prison or the death penalty.

The defendants include such former top officials as Vice President Genady Yanayev, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, parliament speaker Anatoly Lukyanov, KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov, and Defense Minister Dmitry Yazov.

One alleged conspirator, former Interior Minister Boris Pugo, killed himself following the coup's collapse.

The planned Aug. 20 signing of a new "union treaty," which would have greatly decentralized power, prompted the plotters to act, Lisov said.

Their aim was to scrap perestroika-era reforms and return the Communist Party to a position of unquestioned authority.

"The treaty would have brought considerable changes to the structure of the union and to their well-being," Lisov said.

The treaty was never signed, but the failed coup led to the demise of the party and collapse of the Soviet Union, which was replaced by the Commonwealth of Independent States in December.

According to confiscated documents, the conspirators intended to abolish elected bodies, or soviets, throughout the country and set up a provisional government council in Moscow that would make all the decisions, Lisov said.

"The position of the accused is that they were acting for the good of the people," said Lisov. "They consider themselves not guilty."

Lisov said the coup had been a long time in the making. …

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