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Gorbachev recalls August 1991 coup, upholds defending values of democracy, rule of law

He noted that the August events created conditions where it was incredibly hard to go ahead with efforts for preserving the Soviet Union

MOSCOW, August 18. /TASS/. The Soviet Union’s first president, Mikhail Gorbachev, has said that the lessons of the 1991 government coup are still relevant today and both society and the state must guard the principles of democracy.

"Defending the principles of democracy and the rule of law and preventing any possibility of the usurpation of power and adventurist actions should always be the center of attention for both society and the authorities. I do believe that Russia’s democratic road of development is the sole, correct one, and only on this track will our country be able to develop and cope with any problems," Gorbachev told the media on Wednesday.

The former Soviet leader looked back on the events of those days.

"When the plotters isolated me in Foros, turned off all means of communication and sent their representatives to me, I emphatically dismissed their demand for signing a state of emergency decree. I described their actions as a criminal escapade," he said.

Gorbachev stressed that the "plotters’ scheme was doomed thanks to a firm stance taken by the Soviet president, the Russian president and the courage of thousands of Muscovites, along with many public figures and legislators."

"People did not want to go back to the previous way of life. The democratic institutions that emerged as a result of perestroika have stood the test of time by and large," Gorbachev added.

He stressed that the plotters many times changed their "version of events."

"First, they repented, but then followed the advice of one of the conspirators to blame everything on Gorbachev. But facts are facts. They were established by the investigation of the coup and they cannot be denied," he stressed.

Gorbachev recalled that the August events complicated and weakened the positions of the Soviet Union’s president and created conditions where it was incredibly hard to go ahead with efforts for preserving the Soviet Union.

"The republics adopted declarations of independence. But certain chances of preserving the Union on a renewed basis still remained. However, in December a second blow followed. Collusion by the leaders of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, who declared the termination of the Soviet Union’s existence," Gorbachev said.

He pointed out that the coup’s organizers in their attempts to excuse themselves claimed that their prime concern was preserving the country, but "the effects of their adventure proved catastrophic."

"They bear a tremendous share of responsibility for the country’s collapse," Gorbachev concluded.

August 1991 coup

August 19 went down in the history of modern Russia as a failed coup attempt. A group of the Soviet Union’s top officials, critical of Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of reforms and the draft of a new Union Treaty created what they called the State Committee for the State of Emergency in an attempt to prevent the elimination of the Soviet Union. Troops and armored vehicles were moved into Moscow and the capitals of Soviet republics.

Then Russian President Boris Yeltsin branded the State Committee for the State of Emergency and its actions as a government coup attempt. The coup failed thanks to mass civilian demonstrations in support of the legitimate authorities.