Putin's August Coup: The President speaks of his role in 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt

Putin's August Coup: The President speaks of his role in 1991 Soviet coup d'état attempt
Viktor Zolotov and Vladimir Putin Photo: Viktor Zolotov and Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin described the events of August 1991 as a "coup attempt" in the film Sobchak’s Case about the ex-Mayor of St. Petersburg, filmed by Ksenia Sobchak. Zolotov told how he had defended the White House.

President Vladimir Putin stated that he acted on the side of then-Head of the RSFSR Boris Yeltsin during the August coup (1991). Fragments of his interview with TV presenter and former presidential wannabe Ksenia Sobchak appeared in the film Sobchak's Case – it is dedicated to her father, first Mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. The film will be released in Russia on June 12, 2018, before that, on May 15, the picture was presented at a private show in Cannes. RBC reviewed the materials for the film about Sobchak.

According to Putin, who was then Chairman of the Committee for External Relations of the Mayor's office of Leningrad (Former St. Petersburg), he had to choose between President Boris Yeltsin and the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP), which included Chairman of the KGB Vladimir Kryuchkov. Mr. Putin said more than once in an interview that he was a KGB officer.

"On the one hand, I worked with Anatoly Sobchak, and he was on the side of the current government, on the side of Yeltsin, and so on," the President explained. "And on the other hand - the attempted coup and the security forces were on the side of those who carried out this; I could not be everywhere at the same time." During the coup, Putin told Sobchak that "the choice has already been made" and decided to stay with him, rather than "tossing back and forth."

"I wanted to walk tall," Putin said. "And therefore, I signed a report and resign, so Mr. Sobchak told me: "OK, then do it. I'll call Kryuchkov." Putin was surprised with Sobchak's reaction, as he was confident that the Chairman of the KGB "would steer [Sobchak] clear." But the Mayor of Petersburg called Kryuchkov, and Putin's report was signed, he said in an interview.

In an interview with Andrey Kolesnikov and Natalia Gevorkyan for the book Conversations with Vladimir Putin, the President had already called the events of August 1991 a putsch. "I knew for sure that I would not go anywhere and never will be on the side of the putschists," Putin said.

Director of Rosgvardiya Viktor Zolotov, who then served in Yeltsin's guard, also got up to speed on the coup. According to him, on the night of August 21, 1991, when Yeltsin arrived at the White House, he ordered his relatives to be taken away from Moscow, because "he was afraid of further reprisals." "[I] understood that we would perish there," explained Zolotov. "I told the guys that we could hold out for 20 minutes, no more." At the same time, Yeltsin gathered "the whole secretariat [of the Supreme Council of the RSFSR], the women who were there, and sent them home, because someone said that in the evening there would be an action, where we would perish." "Boris Nikolayevich was so cold, pale; I do not want to say that he crept round, the situation was [strange]," the Head of Rosgvardiya recalled.

In addition to Putin and Zolotov, the interview was given by daughter and brother-in-law of Boris Yeltsin - Tatyana and Valentin Yumashevs, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Sobchak's mother Lyudmila Narusova, Head of the Accounts Chamber Alexey Kudrin, Rusnano board chairman Anatoly Chubais, ex-Head of the Service Security of the President Alexander Korzhakov and many other people who knew the former Mayor of Petersburg. Interviews were recorded before the presidential campaign of Ksenia Sobchak. In October 2017, the TV presenter reported that she had met with the President for an interview, and then informed him of her intention to run in the elections.

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