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History in REAL TIME: Relive the #1993 Russian Parliament siege

Under siege - House of Soviets in Moscow, October 4, 1993. (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Vyatkin)
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

October 4, 1993

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. 

Former Soviet Parliament Chairman Ruslan Khasbulatov (2nd-L) and former Parliament Vice-President Alexander Rutskoi (3rd-R) are guarded by members of "Team Alpha" special forces after being arrested 04 October 1993 inside of Parliament "White House" building during the coup d'etat as the anti-Yeltsin rebellion goes on. (AFP Photo/Dima Tanin)

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.

Still from YouTube video/il2shugaev

16:30 MSK: The Alpha trooper has entered the wrecked parliament and appears to be leading about 100 people from the building.

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. 

15:30 MSK: 

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.

Shooting near the Government House during the 1993 Constitution Crisis. (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Rodionov)

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.

Individuals, wounded during the 1993 Constitutional crisis. (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Vyatkin)

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.

Parliament House on Moscow's Freedom Square burns after being bombarded by federal forces on October 4, 1993 as a result of a conflict involving deputies of the Russian Supreme Soviet [Parliament] and the executive branch headed by President Boris Yeltsin. (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Rodionov)

The constitutional crisis of 1993. Young people watch the military attack at the House of Soviets of the Russian Federation. (RIA Novosti/Vladimir Vyatkin)

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. 

A picture taken on October 4, 1993, shows a pro-Yeltsin forces officer firing his Kalashnikov assault rifle at the Russian parliament building, also known as the White House, during the parliamentary revolt in Moscow. (AFP Photo/Alexander Nemenov)

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. 

AFP Photo/Alexander Nemenov

“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.


RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko

07:50 MSK: Fierce shooting erupts in a park adjacent to the White House.

RIA Novosti / Vladimir Vyatkin

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…


According to the woman, “many” of the people from her group were killed before they managed to retreat back into the parliament building.

04:30 MSK: Troops, military vehicles and police forces start moving towards the White House.

04:25 MSK: Around 2,000 men remain near the Moscow government building

04:20 MSK: Troops and military vehicles start moving towards the parliament building. In all, around 1,700 servicemen, 10 tanksand 20armored personnel carriers are engaged in storming the White House. 

The contingent, half of which consists of officers and juniorcommand personnel, was recruited from five different divisions – Taman Division, 119thAirborne Regiment, KantemirovskayaDivision,Divisionof InternalTroopsn.a.Dzerzhinsky, SmolenskOMON (Special Purposes Mobile Unit), TulaAirborne Division. The tank crews are made up almost entirely of officers.

04:15 MSK: The leader of the parliament defenders, Aleksandr Rutskoy, tours the White House in a Mercedes car, inspecting the forces at his disposal. 

04:10 MSK: Tanks from the 2nd Guards Tamanskaya Motor Rifle Division – based in Kalininets village 34 kilometers from Moscow – have been deployed to the Russian capital.

04:05 MSK: Yeltsin signs a written decree allocating Defense Ministry troops to expedite the state of emergency and restore order in Moscow, with deputy defense minister, Georgy Kondratyev, put in charge of the operation.

The confrontation of the two branches of power in Russia between September 21 and October 4, 1993 resulted in forceful termination of the Soviet type power structure, in existence since 1917. It caused armed clashes in the streets of Moscow. A woman talking with soldiers near the Parliament House.(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)

04:00 MSK: The Russian president has held a meeting with a group of 40 officers in command of the Alpha special forces units in the Kremlin.

When Yeltsin asked the officers: “Will you carry out the order of the President [to storm the White House]?” the officers were silent, and the head of the Russian state had to make a three-minute speech to inspire the commandos.

03:30 MSK: Boris Yeltsin has made up his mind to storm the While House after a plan to seize the building – proposed by the president’s deputy security chief, Gennady Zakharov – was heard at the General Staff meeting.

The beginning of the operation is scheduled for 7:00 MSK, with defense minister, Aleksandr Grachev, asking Yeltsin to confirm the order to storm the White House in written form.

Zakharov put up a scheme, which indicated that the capture of the White House would require no more than ten tanks. Five military vehicles will open fire from the Kalininsky Bridge and the others from the opposite side,” the president’s security chief, Aleksandr Korzhakov, said. “The rumble of guns has a strong psychological effect on people, causing panic and demoralizing those on guard. And casualties can be completely avoided as the tanks will begin firing at empty floors.”

03:20 MSK: The White House defenders are told that some army units are entering Moscow to support the rebellion.

03:15 MSK: Armed groups pushed away from Ostankino TV center.

A file picture late on October 3, 1993, shows anti-Yeltsin activists taking cover under gunfire near Ostankino television centre during the parliamentary revolt in Moscow.(AFP Photo / Alexander Nemenov)

01:35 MSK: The Pro-Yeltsin Democratic Russia movement forms a chain of 3,000 men from the Belarus railway terminal to the Moscow’s government headquarters, where a rally is held.

01:20 MSK: Ostankino TV center and TASS news agency remain besieged by armed militants. A new attempt by the protesters to gain control of the TV center was repelled by interior troops with deadly force.

01:00 MSK: A night rally of the Pro-Yeltsin Democratic Russia movement gathers around 2,000 participants.

00:20 MSK: About 5,000 supporters of the conservative legislators remain near the parliament building. The Army and police are set not to engage in the crisis.

October 3, 1993

23:30 MSK: As estimated, over 15, 000 people are protesting outside Moscow Soviet of People's Deputies (Mossovet). 

October 1993 events in Moscow. People in front of the Russian House of Soviets (from 1994 - the House of the Government of the Russian Federation).(RIA Novosti / Alexander Liskin)

23:10 MSK: PM Chernomyrdin orders to take under protection all the important buildings and monuments which reflect Russia’s heritage across the country

23:00 MSK: Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has addressed the nation, saying that “Moscow is in danger” and thousands of people are now under threat. He confirmed that scores of people have been killed and injured in the streets of the capital.

22:50 MSK: The first floor of Ostankino TV station is on fire. Move victims have been reported as shooting continues outside the building.

22:45 MSK: Presidential aide Ivan Andreev says the Ostankino television station has been cleared. Special forces troops are ordered to open fire, if needed. 

October 3, 1993, Moscow. Members of the Special-Purpose Division named after F. Dzerzhinsky heading to the Russian House of Soviets (from 1994 - the House of the Government of the Russian Federation).(RIA Novosti / Vladimir Fedorenko)

22:35 MSK: A convoy of armored vehicles is moving towards the city as troops are being deployed in Moscow.

22:00 MSK: Boris Yeltsin declares state of emergency in Moscow and sacks  Vice president Aleksandr Rutskoi.

21:21 MSK: Rory Peck, a war cameraman for the German ARD Television Company, is reported killed in crossfire while covering the storming of the Ostankino television station.


20:20 MSK: Interior troops force the protesters to retreat. According to preliminary reports, dozens of people have been killed in the standoff. The Ostankino facilities have been damaged, eye-witnesses say.


19:15 MSK: An intense gunfight breaks out between the protesters trying to capture the TV center and the Interior Ministry.

A file picture taken on October 3, 1993, shows armed anti-Yeltsin activists trying to storm Ostankino television centre during the parliamentary revolt in Moscow. Russia marks the 20th anniversary of the bloody showdown in October 1993 between president Boris Yeltsin and parliament which ended in a tank assault on the rebels. (AFP Photo)

18:30 MSK: The demonstrators, led by Colonel General Albert Makashov and hardline communist politician, Viktor Anpilov, have taken control of the mayor’s office and marched toward Ostankino to demand a live appearance on air.

Supporters of the legislators are stopping buses in the center of the capital and using them to bring more protesters to the Ostankino TV center, which is only protected by regular police patrols.

A file picture taken on October 3, 1993, shows armed anti-Yeltsin activists celebrating before their attempt to storm Ostankino television centre during the parliamentary revolt in Moscow. (AFP Photo)

18:15 MSK: An intense firefight has started as interior troops began advancing towards the Parliament building while police forces disengaged from the streets around it.

 Russian Parliament Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov (AFP Photo/Yuri Gripas)

18:00 MSK: Yeltsin signs a decree introducing a state of emergency in the Russian capital.

In the afternoon, armed anti-Yeltsin protesters, backed by several internal military units, who had opted to side with the parliament’s defenders, successfully stormed the police cordon around the White House, with two law enforcement officers being killed in the skirmish.

They were greeted by Rutskoy, who spoke from the parliament’s balcony, urging the protesters to seize the Moscow mayor's office and the national television center at Ostankino.

The speaker of the Russian Supreme Council, Ruslan Khasbulatov, called on the demonstrators to storm the Kremlin and put “the criminal and usurper Yeltsin” behind bars.

September 21 – October 2, 1993

On September 21, the Russian president, Boris Yeltsin, issued decree No.1400, which moved to dissolve the country's legislature – the Congress of People's Deputies and its Supreme Council.

The move was explained by Yeltsin’s conclusion that the current Russian constitution is hampering reforms in the country and development of new legislation in the parliament is too slow and insufficient. 

March 26-29, 1993. Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Chairman of the Russian Supreme Council Ruslan Khasbulatov at the 9th Extraordinary Congress of People's Deputies of Russia. (RIA Novosti/Alexander Makarov)

With the constitution not giving him the power to dissolve parliament, the president used the results of April’s referendum, in which 69 percent of voters backed the early election for People's Deputies of the Russian Federation, to justify his action.

But parliament refused to obey Yeltsin’s ruling, calling the decree an attempted coup as it violated 12 articles in the Russian constitution.

The deputies, who barricaded themselves inside the parliamentary headquarters, popularly dubbed as the White House, central Moscow, impeached Yeltsin and proclaimed vice president, Aleksandr Rutskoy, to be the acting Russian president.

Rutskoy took the presidential oath, saying: "I am taking the authority of president. The anti-constitutional decree of President Yeltsin is annulled."

Constitutional Crisis of 1993. Opening the Extraordinary Congress of People's Deputies of Russia in the House of the Government of the Russian Federation dissolved by Decree 1400 of Russian President Boris Yeltsin. (RIA Novosti/Yuryi Abramochkin)

On September 24, access to the White House was completely cut off by the police in order to protect Muscovites from “armed militants holed up in the parliament building.”

In the following days, thousands of anti-Yeltsin protesters with red flags flocked to the site, with an ongoing rally forming in front of the White House on the Moskva River embankment.

On October 2, the demonstrators built barricades
and blocked traffic on the Russian capital’s main streets, with the MPs still refusing to reach a compromise with the president.