Sick of Fighting, Russians Hope for Peace With AM-Russia, Bjt
Oct. 04, 1993
MOSCOW (AP) _ They may not like Boris Yeltsin. They may disapprove of parliament. But Russians say there is one thing they really hate: disorder.
They came out by the hundreds Monday to witness the latest episode in their turbulent history. And while deploring the storming of parliament, many hoped it might finally bring peace.
''The most dangerous thing of all was having those 3,000 people with weapons,'' said Sergei Trifonov, a 28-year-old computer scientist, recalling hard-liners' assaults Sunday on the mayor's office and TV broadcasting center.
''It's the government's fault, though, for not acting more forcefully sooner,'' said Trifonov, who took the day off to stand in the crowd and watch the battle for the White House.
Away from the gunbattles and tank fire at the Russian White House, Moscow was calm. But many stores and roads were closed, as were several downtown subway stations, and many people stayed home and listened to the news.
Support for Yeltsin is much broader but more diffuse than that for parliament.
Throughout the nearly two weeks since Yeltsin disbanded parliament and hard-liners holed up at the White House, the public largely went about its business. The biggest rallies for either side drew about 15,000, and most just a few thousand, in a city of 9 million people.
A telephone poll by the Public Opinion company on Monday morning - after the hard-liners' overnight rampage but before Yeltsin's tanks went to work on parliament - showed an overwhelming 72 percent of 1,600 Muscovites polled backed the president.
Only 9 percent said they supported parliament, while 19 percent ''refused to answer.'' The margin of error was 6 percent.
One of those who came out to defend Yeltsin on Monday was 53-year-old Lev Serpov, a robust man with gold teeth standing with about 100 other people at a barricade on Red Square.
''There is no ideal person,'' he said when asked about Yeltsin. ''But as long as he was elected and even supported in the (April) referendum then he must take these actions to impose order.''
About 3,000 to 5,000 pro-Yeltsin demonstrators blocked off a major downtown street, waving flags and signs showing caricatures of parliament speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov with a swastika on his lapel.
Clumps of parliament sympathizers stood in front of the Lenin Museum debating what to do next. ''People are scattered,'' said one man, who would not give his name.
Alexandra Lokteva, 70, a retired economist who spent the day cooking and listening to the radio, said Yeltsin broke the law when he disbanded parliament. She sympathized with lawmakers who stood up to ''Czar Boris,'' but she too believed Yeltsin had little choice Monday.
''That side is guilty too, of course,'' she said. ''But he created a situation where naturally he had nothing else to do but drive them out.''
On the Kalinin Bridge, where hundreds gathered to watch the battle, there was little evident sympathy for parliament. A few people wanted to know the whereabouts of Khasbulatov and Vice President Alexander Rutskoi because they wanted them punished. Both later surrendered and were imprisoned.
But mostly people were there to see the show. Despite bullets zinging off the bridge, some teen-agers ran around looking for the slugs and other souvenirs. When parliament's defense began to collapse, some young trophy hunters ran right into the building.
A steady stream of pedestrians crossed the bridge even at the height of the firefight. Many commuters ran hunched over, clutching briefcases and purses.
''I figured they wouldn't shoot at a lone woman who had to get to work,'' said Yelena Kuznetsova, 30, after she raced across the bridge from the White House side at the height of the gunbattle.
Bicyclists stopped to gape. Boys ran across the road in front of the approaching tanks.
Tourists had their pictures snapped in front of tanks, ducking when the sound of bullets came too near.
Among Muscovites, perhaps the overriding sentiment was exhaustion.
''They should stop this so we can get on with our lives,'' said Natasha Chernychenko, 18, as she walked quickly past a pro-Yeltsin rally on her way to do errands.