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21-22 August 1991 - Gorbachev returns

An exhausted Gorbachev makes a dramatic return to Moscow from his detention in the Crimea.

The coup has collapsed on 21 August, under the sheer weight of public opposition - and because of the armed forces' reluctance to support the plotters. The hardliners would have had to kill many protesters to storm the White House and detain Yeltsin. Even the weather has gone against them - heavy rain makes it virtually impossible to storm the building from the air.

After accepting that their bid for power has failed, the ringleaders have flown to Crimea and returned to Moscow with Gorbachev - in an attempt to explain their actions and make their excuses in person.

Yeltsin, after restoring his arch-rival to power, now sets about taking Gorbachev's world apart. Gorbachev - who has returned still believing in the Communist Party's future - is made to read out an account of his own people plotting against him. Yeltsin orders the Soviet Communist Party to end its activities on Russian soil.

The next day Gorbachev resigns as Soviet Communist Party general secretary and dissolves its Central Committee.

The Russian flag flies alongside the Soviet flag above the Kremlin.

Gorbachev on his dramatic return to Moscow
Freedom: Gorbachev returns to Moscow

 From the archive: Celebrating in Moscow
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