Wagner mutiny: Kremlin survived two other revolts since fall of Berlin Wall

By
AFP
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Members of Wagner group patrol the centre of Rostov-on-Don, — a hub for Russia’s Ukraine campaign — where the rebellious Wagner mercenary force said it had taken over key facilities on June 24, 2023. — AFP
Members of Wagner group patrol the centre of Rostov-on-Don, — a hub for Russia’s Ukraine campaign — where the rebellious Wagner mercenary force said it had taken over key facilities on June 24, 2023. — AFP

After the "failed coup" by the Russian mercenary group Wagner against Moscow, AFP looks back at the previous biggest threats survived by the Kremlin since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Failed coup of 1991 

In August 1991, four months before the collapse of the Soviet Union, president Mikhail Gorbachev survived a failed attempt by Communist hardliners to seize power to prevent the signature of a treaty granting a large degree of autonomy to the 15 republics that made up the USSR.

Gorbachev was on holiday at his dacha in Crimea when he was taken prisoner there by the KGB, the Soviet secret police, on August 19. Troops and tanks were also deployed on the streets of Moscow.

Over the next three days, tens of thousands of people took to the streets to defend Russian democracy.

The resistance centred on the White House, the parliament building in Moscow, which became a symbol of opposition to the putsch.

Boris Yeltsin, the newly elected president of the Russian republic -- the USSR's largest — led the fightback, famously addressing crowds atop one of the tanks that surrounded parliament.

Within two days the coup had petered out and Gorbachev returned to Moscow a day after it ended, but the episode undermined his influence and made Yeltsin the dominant leader.

Within a few months, Soviet republics began declaring independence.

 Parliamentary revolt of 1993 

Two years later, between September 21 and October 4, 1993, Yeltsin found himself at the centre of an even bigger crisis, when hardline Communist and nationalist deputies led a bloody revolt that ended with tanks attacking parliament.

The rebellion erupted after months of political deadlock, after Yeltsin signed a decree to dissolve the Supreme Soviet, as the legislature was called at the time.

It set up a standoff with the Communist-dominated parliament, which voted to remove Yeltsin as leader and give his powers to vice-president Alexander Rutskoy, who joined the opposition.

Parliament supporters barricaded themselves with rebel MPs inside the White House while Yeltsin's opponents demonstrated outside.

The rebels seized the Moscow mayor's offices and took over part of the state television centre.

Yeltsin eventually crushed the rebellion by ordering tanks and troops to fire on the White House on October 4.

The entire floors of the 18-storey building were reduced to rubble and the leaders of the rebellion were jailed.

The number of people killed is officially listed at 148, though the rebels claimed that some 1,000 people died.

In December that year, a new constitution boosting the powers of the president was adopted by referendum.

But Yeltsin's supporters suffered losses in parliamentary elections, and MPs later voted to grant amnesty to the leaders of the uprising.