Interview with Rustem Safronov

Rustem Safronov, a Russian journalist at the time who witnessed the White House siege in 1993, shared his memories of those tragic days with RT.

Russia Today: You were seriously injured it the White House siege and you were lucky to be alive. What happened?

Rustem Safronov: Well, obviously, there are different calculations about the number of victims during that October tragedy, and this story is still waiting for historians to look into that. After  elections, the new Duma,  and an amnesty, there was sort of a deal between the opposition and Yeltsin regime at that time not to look very deeply into that tragedy. Some independent sources, like socialist Andrey Kolganov and Aleksandr Buzgalin made their own investigation and they estimated between 500 and 700 deaths. Opposition newspapers were saying that more than 2,000 people were killed during those events. So, it is still waiting to be discovered.

RT: And what happened to you? You were shot, weren’t you?

R.S.: It was pretty dramatic for me and, also, it was dramatic to see all that going on before it happened to me because we came to the area near the White House to film the battle, the  disarray around, and see defenders of the White House, and attacking governmental forces as well. We also saw dead bodies lying in the street and we came to film that. And in that very moment being a reporter I was hit by a bullet as well. Thanks to Russian and Danish doctors and my wife, I survived which wasn’t very easy.

RT: Some people say that the country was in a state of crisis close to a civil war at that time. Do you agree with that?

R.S.: Obviously, the danger of a civil war existed, but mostly it was the guilt of the elite, I’d say. Society in general in the entire country was pretty passive. All the activities were mostly concentrated inside Moscow. And even in Moscow politicians still could find room for negotiations. The Patriarch was involved – he was speaking about bloodshed.  It’s just that our society then didn’t have enough traditions of democratic debate, discussing contradictions, and finding peaceful solutions. We needed to find a new way to govern the country and redistribute the property. But at that time there was no oligarchy. Parliament and president disagreed on how to handle the privatization of property. But nobody should have died for that issue at that time, so it was just the ambitions of Yeltsin, Khasbulatov and Rutskoy who finally made that bloody account.