Soviet 1991 coup leader Gennady Yanayev dies at 73

24th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Former Soviet statesman Gennady Yanayev, who led the abortive 1991 coup against then president Mikhail Gorbachev, died Friday aged 73 following an illness, a former Soviet politician said.

"I offer all my condolences to his loved ones," Ruslan Khasbulatov, one-time speaker of the Russian parliament and his longtime political adversary, told the Echo of Moscow radio.

"Yanayev died after a long and painful illness. He was admitted the night before to a Moscow hospital," a source at the hospital was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying.

Yanayev was a longtime Soviet state official who worked with youth and labor unions before he was appointed vice president of the Soviet Union in 1990. He was selected to head the coup in August 1991.

"He was not an active conspirator, but it does not diminish his fault," said Khasbulatov.

The coup organizers, or "putchists" after the Russian word for "coup," shocked the country when they declared a state of emergency on August 19th while Gorbachev was on vacation in the Crimea, Ukraine.

Yanayev proclaimed himself acting president of the USSR. He and his collaborators held the Soviet leadership for three days before all the putchists were jailed. He was granted amnesty in 1994.

"Yanayev lived an interesting, complicated and worthy life," Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov was reported as saying by Interfax. He expressed regret that the putchists were not more "decisive" and could not "save our unified country and work out the difficult situation it was in."

Yanayev had suffered from lung cancer for several years, Russian newspapers reported.

© 2010 AFP

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