On October 4, 1993, tanks fired at the White House to end the most severe political crisis in post-Soviet Russia. The two-week standoff between the president and the parliament, which culminated in a three-day armed struggle, saw over 100 people dead.
Police, military and civilians were killed, with none of the politicians involved in the power struggle among the victims.
RT recaps the main characters and events from 20 years ago in an updated timeline format, which gives a moment-by-moment account of one of the worst crises in Russia’s recent history. The reconstruction is based on open sources, with the timings being approximate.
For an overview of the political and economic developments that preceded the crisis of autumn 1993, read Background to Bloodshed here.
The bloody White House siege has concluded, with forces loyal to
president Yeltsin mopping up the building and placing the
parliament leaders under arrest.
The worst day of violence that Moscow ever witnessed in Russia’s modern history has taken the lives of 74 people, including 26 military and police servicemen, while another 172 sustained injuries, according to official data.
Over 30 percent of the total area of the White House has been destroyed by tanks and machineguns, with the fire completely burning out eight floors in the 20-storey building.
In February 1994, the new Russian parliament declared a political amnesty to the participants of the Black Autumn events.
All of them, including the leaders of the anti-Yeltsin forces, Rutskoy, Khasbulatov and Makashov, were released from custody, despite attempts by the president to scotch the move.
18:00 MSK: It seems to be over – Vice pres Aleksandr Rutskoy, Parliament leader Ruslan Khasbulatov and nationalist leader Albert Makashov are arrested.
17:55 MSK: Reports claim that defenders who remain are moving to the residential quarters on the White House complex.
17:50 MSK: Chernomyrdin’s aide confirms defenders have been told how to exit white house – surrender must be unconditional.
17:45 MSK: Talks offer rejected – PM Chernomyrdin’s aide:
“Tell Rutskoy and Khasbulatov that nobody is going to talk
with them. They must surrender.”
17:40 MSK: Interfax’s Vyacheslav Terekhov is inside the White House and reports the Defenders are ready for talks “in order to avoid unnecessary bloodshed.”
17:30 MSK: BREAKING Message from White House ‘defenders’ –
Vice-President Aleksandr Rutskoy, Supreme Council speaker Ruslan
Khasbulatov and Col Gen Albert Makashov – they demand Westerns
European states provide security guarantees.
17:11 MSK: A convoy of buses has been parked near the white house – presumably to collect those surrendering.
17:10 MSK: CONFIRMED Estimated 700 people are leaving the White House with their hands behind their heads.
17:00 MSK: BREAKING A mass surrender is underway at the parliament! Reports of up to seven hundred being escorted from the smoking building by the Alpha special ops team.
16:30 MSK: The Alpha trooper has entered the wrecked
parliament and appears to be leading about 100 people from the
16:00 MSK: A man in camouflage has told reporters he is an Alpha special forces unit servicemen and will enter the White House to negotiate a surrender.
15:50 MSK: Signs of the endgame - leaflets containing the “Last will of the parliament’s defenders,” are being distributed around the White House. They state: “Now, when you read this letter, we are no longer alive. Our bullet-pierced bodies are burning inside the walls of the White House”.
“We truly loved Russia and wanted order – according to which every person has equal rights and responsibilities, and breaking the law is forbidden to everyone, no matter how high his rank – to be restored in our country (and we had no plans of fleeing to foreign lands).”
“Forgive us. We forgive everyone, even the young guys, the soldiers, who were sent to kill us, it’s not their fault. But we’ll never forgive the devilish gang whose fat ass sat on Russia’s neck. We believe that, in the end, our Motherland will be freed from this burden,” the will concluded.
Alpha and Vympel special forces units ordered to storm the White House. Commanders still say they’ll try to negotiate a peaceful surrender with the parliament leaders before following the order.
14:57 MSK: The White House defenders claim they have no idea nor link to the rooftop snipers surrounding the parliament.
Andrey Dunaev, former deputy interior minister, who is siding with the lawmakers: "I witnessed a police officer shot by a sniper from the Mir Hotel. We hurried there, but the shooter was already gone. The execution style suggests it wasn’t our interior ministry or KGB, but somebody else – foreign intelligence services, apparently.”
14:55 MSK: An Alpha commando has been killed by a sniper bullet in front of the parliament building.
Alpha commander, Gennady Zaitsev: “One of our men, junior lieutenant Gennady Sergeev was killed. His group arrived at the White House in an armored vehicle. A wounded soldier was lying on the pavement and they decided to evacuate him. They dismounted the armored vehicle, and at that moment the sniper shot Sergeev in the back. But the shot didn’t come from the White House, there’s no doubt about that. This despicable act had just one intention – to outrage Alpha so that they would rush into the White House and massacre everybody.”
14:50 MSK: Unidentified snipers are indiscriminately firing on the crowd from vantage points on buildings overlooking the scene, they’re targeting pro-Yeltsin forces, the police and bystanders as well. Two journalists and a woman are reported killed, while two soldiers are injured.
14:00 MSK: A brief lull in shooting. Several defenders
leave the White House to surrender.
13:00 MSK: Multiple casualties on different floors of the White House, according to parliamentary, Vyacheslav Kotelnikov.
“At first, when I was sent from one floor of the building to another with an assignment, I was stunned by the tremendous amount of blood, dead and crippled bodies; hands and heads torn off. Body parts sever and split when a person is hit by a tank shell... but then you get used to it as there’s a job you have to do,” he said.
12:00 MSK: The Public Opinion Foundation says 72 per cent of Muscovites support Yeltsin in the crisis, 9 per cent are on parliament’s side, with 19 per cent refusing to answer.
11:40 MSK: Teenage looters to have made their way into the parking lot in front of the White House due to poor organization of police cordons. The youths attempted to get hold of the weapons abandoned by the dead and wounded, a commander of one the units of the Taman Division tells journalists. Several cars were also stolen from the parking lot, with valuable parts being removed from a number of other vehicles.
11:30 MSK: 192 people have been delivered to hospitals in Moscow, 158 of them were hospitalized and 19 have died, the Chief Medical Officer says.
11:25 MSK: Intensive artillery fire resumes in front of the parliament building, as the ceasefire fails. Civilians remain in the besieged parliament.
11:06 MSK: Huge crowds of onlookers who came to watch the storming of the White House have gathered at the Novy Arbat street opposite the parliament building and the Smolenskya embankment.
Efforts by police to disperse the onlookers is fruitless. According to photographer, Dmitry Borko, there are many teenagers and even women with children perilously close to the White House, who don’t seem to care about their personal safety at all.
11:00 MSK: A cease-fire is announced in order to allow women and children to leave the White House.
10:00 MSK: White House defenders speak of multiple casualties as a result of tanks shelling the building.
"When the tanks opened fire I was on the sixth floor,” one of the people inside the White House says. “There were a lot of civilians there. We were unarmed. I thought that after the shooting, the soldiers would break into the building, and I decided to find a gun. When I opened the door, where a shell recently exploded, I couldn’t enter – it was a bloody mess in there.”
09:45 MSK: Pro-Yeltsin forces are using loudspeakers to urge the parliament’s defenders to cease resistance, with the message saying: “Drop your weapons, give up. Otherwise you’ll be eliminated” being repeated time and time again.
09:20 MSK: Tanks have started shelling the upper floors of the parliament building from the Kalininsky (Novoarbatsky) Bridge. In all, six T-80 tanks take part in the bombardment, launching 12 rounds.
“The first shell hit the conference room, the second hit Khasbulatov’s office, and the third one hit my room,” Aleksandr Rutskoy, leader of the White House defenders, says. “I was in my office when the shell went through the glass and exploded in the righthand corner. Fortunately, my table was on the left side of the room. I rushed outside in complete shock. I don’t know what saved me.”
09:15 MSK: The White House is completely encircled by pro-presidential forces, who have gained control of nearby houses. Several groups of storm troopers have made it directly to the base of the parliament building.
The White House remains under heavy machine gun fire from all sides.
Around 30 of the parliament’s defenders are reportedly detained by Yeltsin’s forces.
09:05 MSK: Boris Yeltsin makes a statement on television, calling the events in Moscow “a pre-planned armed rebellion,” which was staged by “Communist revanchists, Fascist leaders, a contingent of former deputies, the representatives of the Soviets.”
“Those who are waving red flags again stained Russia with blood. They hoped for the unexpected, that their impudence and unprecedented cruelty would sow fear and confusion,” Yeltsin stresses.
The president assures viewers that “the Fascist-communist armed rebellion in Moscow will be suppressed within the shortest period. The Russian state has the necessary forces for this.”
09:00 MSK: The defenders of the parliament are firing at the advancing pro-Yeltsin forces. Armored vehicles are shooting with heavy machine guns and cannons at the White House, with fires erupting on the 12th and 13th floors of the building.
08:00 MSK: Infantry fighting vehicles and armored personnel carriers directly targeted fire at the windows of the White House.
07:50 MSK: Fierce shooting erupts in a park adjacent to the White House.
07:45 MSK: Parliament defenders, who were killed or wounded during the siege, are brought to one of the entrance lobbies of the White House.
“I saw over 50 injured people were lying in rows on the floor of the lobby, which was the largest in the building. Perhaps there were dead among them as those in the first two rows had their faces covered,” Nikolay Grigoriev, a surgeon and MP for Russia’s Republic of Chuvashia, says.
07:35 MSK: The White House security personnel remaining in the parliament are invited to withdraw from the building.
07:25 MSK: Five infantry combat vehicles destroy the barricades erected by the parliament’s defenders and drive into the Svobodnaya Rossiya (Free Russia) Square in front of the White House.
07:00 MSK: Shooting continues near the White House. Police captain, Aleksandr Ruban, 23, is shot dead by a bullet as he was filming the security forces’ operation from the balcony of the Ukraina Hotel, which is opposite the White House.
06:50 MSK: First gunshots are heard in front of the White House in central Moscow. The bullets are coming from both the parliament building and the other side of the Moskva River where forces loyal to Yeltsin are positioned.
“We were raised by an alarm at 6:45,” White House defender Galina N. says. “We were still sleepy when we ran out into the street and were met by machinegun fire… We had to lay low on the ground, with armored vehicles landing shots just ten meters from us…”