Что делать, — мне пищит она,
Толпою годы пролетели.
Прошла моя, твоя весна —
Мы оба постареть успели.
Но, друг, послушай: не беда
Неверной младости утрата.
Конечно, я теперь седа,
Немножко, может быть, горбата;
Не то, что в старину была,
Не так жива, не так мила;
Зато (прибавила болтунья)
Открою тайну: я колдунья!»
Well, what can I say, she croaks to me,
The years flew by in the blink of an eye.
My spring, yours, passed quickly –
We both have gotten old.
But listen, my friend: The loss of one’s
Youth does not need to be a tragedy.
To be sure, I am quite grey now,
Perhaps even a little bit hunch-backed,
I am not like I was in the past,
Not quite as lively, nor as sweet,
But, the old gossip adds,
I’ll tell you a secret: I am a sorceress!
(Alexander Pushkin, “Ruslan and Liudmila” – Naina’s rant to her Finnish suitor)
Today concluding this fascinating story involving “he said – she said” among three players (four, if you count Naina Yeltsina) in the tumultuous events of Russian history of August 1991.
Where we left off, Rutskoi and Khasbulatov are on the same side concerning Yeltsin’s activities during those days when he was holed up in the bomb shelter of the Moscow White House: Both men confirm that Yeltsin was inclined to flee to the American Embassy at the slightest whiff of gunpowder.
Where they differ is in this: Rutskoi takes umbrage at Khasbulatov’s lofty dismissal of him (Rutskoi) and insinuation that Rutskoi was off having a gay old time and very distant from the front-line action. The two men are like Pushkin’s Ruslan and Rogdai. In that both are experienced warriors, both worked for the same goal, both defended the same Fair Lady, both ended up on the same side; and yet they despise each other.
Rutskoi: “Ruslan Imranovich is a very strange person, to put it mildly…. Ruslan Imranovich Khasbulatov truly was there in the bomb shelter with Yeltsin. While I was out organizing the defense. Do you see the difference? They were sitting in the cellar, while others were out there organizing the defense from the storming of the building, and the battle right there in the center of Moscow. As a matter of fact, during this time I twice encountered the situation where [Alexander] Korzhakov was preparing the automobile in which they would flee to the American Embassy. Perhaps Khasbulatov himself was present during one of these occasions?”
According to Rutskoi, the bomb shelter was located in the very center of the White House from whence an emergency exit gave towards the Moscow-River. Yeltsin’s bodyguard Korzhakov (a former KGB General) was preparing his troops near the corner entrance of the building, the one that was closest to the American Embassy. “Not far from the bomb shelter was a supply room. I was in charge of giving out supplies to those who were out on the barricades. And twice I encountered this situation when Yeltsin was preparing to flee. These escape attempts occurred on the 19th and the 20th. Every time intel arrived that the (opponents) were preparing to storm the building within half an hour, they would duck into the bomb shelter. And Yeltsin was preparing to flee from the bunker.”
This to refute Khasbulatov’s dismissive utterance to the effect that “Rutskoi was not there” — however, the key point is that both of these rivals agree on the main fact that Yeltsin was a cowardly custard, seeking succor, who yearned to flee to his American curators.
This version of events is denied, however, by slab-faced KGB goon Korzhakov. Oh, it’s true enough, he says, that he was planning to evacuate Yeltsin. Adding piously that this was his duty as the bodyguard of the President. However, he adds, Yeltsin manfully rejected the idea of flight and insisted on remaining in the bomb shelter. [To which it would have been Korzhakov’s duty as bodyguard to wollop Yeltsin over the head, knock him out, and drag him to the Embassy, even if through the underground sewers, like Jean Valjean with Marius on his back.]
Rutskoi scoffs at Korzhakov’s piety: “Yeah sure, it’s just that they explained to Yeltsin at the last minute that it wasn’t worth the attempt. Khasbulatov apparently explained to him how this might all end. I too discouraged Yeltsin from fleeing to the American Embassy. We had a personal conversation to this effect. I told him that it would be a shame and humiliation. And that’s why Yeltsin changed his mind, in the final analysis.”
Naina Gets The Final Word
The final word, as always, must go to the lovely lady: Yeltsin’s grieving widow Naina. “For me,” she told reporter Alexei Lasnov, “both Rutskoi and Khasbulatov are men who have lost all credibility. They have so many lies and so much treachery on their conscience.” Adding that these liars would not even dare to emit such egregious porkies were Boris still alive.
Naina admits that she herself never made an appearance in the White House bomb shelter. “The security forces were hiding me along with the grandchildren in the flat of one of the agents. But on the second night I couldn’t stand it any more, I left and moved in with my daughter. I was very worried about Boris. Knowing his character, I understood that he would remain with the defenders until the very end.”
The idea of fleeing to the American Embassy, according to Naina, was just the idea of the bodyguards. “But he [Boris] refused. And it could not be any other way. My husband was a very brave man and, in difficult situations, always took the blow upon himself.”