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1993: Hardline Communists riot in Moscow

Shots have been fired and several people injured after pro-Communist demonstrators fought running battles with security forces loyal to President Boris Yeltsin in Moscow.

Riot squads were moved in to clear the streets after protesters erected barriers and set car tyres ablaze across the Garden Ring Road, Moscow's main thoroughfare.

Riot police drafted in reinforcements and water cannon to disperse the crowds but were driven back with a hail of home-made missiles.

The protesters are supporting rebel ministers occupying the White House (Russia's parliament building).

President Yeltsin set himself on a collision course with MPs by dissolving parliament and called for fresh elections on 21 September.

Rival claims

The rebels have demanded Yeltsin reverse his earlier decision to dissolve the conservative parliament.

Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, a key player among the hard-line communists and nationalist parliament rebels, is claiming the presidency.

Today he called on people to take to the streets again and urged police officers to switch their allegiance.

Several people were injured in the fighting between riot police and around 600 demonstrators armed with steel bars, petrol bombs and rocks.

Police fired warning shots in the air, but were beaten back by a powerful and determined crowd of rioters.

Government sources have reported 24 police officers and five demonstrators were injured in the clash, but parliamentary sources say the figures were higher.

Witnesses say the crowds are dispersing but nationalist parliamentarian Ilya Konstantinov earlier exhorted protesters to "go home and conserve your strength".

Further clashes are expected tomorrow. Meanwhile the Russian Orthodox Church appealed for calm and warned the country is in danger of breaking up.

Patriarch Alexi II yesterday threatened to excommunicate whichever side shed innocent blood first.

Talks brokered by the Orthodox Church are expected to continue, but President Yeltsin has insisted legislators occupying the parliamentary building must surrender their weapons before any truce can be made.

In a concession he allowed electricity to be restored, but in a visit to police surrounding the parliament building, President Yeltsin threatened to prosecute his opponents for several protest-related deaths.

In Context
Yeltsin's "shock therapy", post-communist, free market reforms were increasingly unpopular in the run-up to the 1993 crisis.

Coupled with poor living standards and widespread corruption the reforms fuelled an ongoing power struggle between the president and parliament which peaked with parliament's dissolution on 21 September.

The protests of 2 October escalated into a complete storming the following day by parliament supporters of the White House and Moscow's Mayoral offices, and a partial take-over of the national television centre.

But on 4 October, troops and tanks loyal to President Yeltsin opened fire on the White House and by the next morning the rebellion had been crushed.

President Yeltsin pardoned the ringleaders. An estimated 146 people died in the struggle.

CPS:RHS>


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