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Russian Deputies in Parliament: In the End We Were Hostages

Rebels tell of being uninformed by their leaders and intimidated by armed radicals

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THE building was shaking all over. Shots were hitting it continuously. It was terrible.''

Ivan Rybkin was one of about 600 people huddled in the dark and stifling hall of the Council of Nationalities, the parliament's upper chamber, as the Russian Army pounded the White House into submission Oct. 4. Along with some 230 of his fellow parliament deputies, there were members of the parliament staff, including many women, some with their children, even some teenage boys who had snuck into the building seeking excitement.

``Somebody sometimes read poetry, especially when people were getting hysterical,'' Mr. Rybkin told the Monitor. ``There was a priest among us. He stood up and sang memorial hymns. Women were calmer than some of the men.''

According to accounts of the White House siege from the inside provided by Rybkin and two other parliament deputies, the lawmakers were politically as well as literally in the dark. During the long hours of the fighting, which began around 7 a.m., they were told nothing about what was going on, even about the government's attempts to negotiate their surrender.

Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, who was leading the armed band defending the White House, never appeared in their chamber. Ruslan Khasbulatov, the parliament chairman, came several times, looking ashen and shaken, but offered no information.

Deputy Sergei Mikhailov, a thick-fingered, burly former factory director from Sakhalin, was moving through the building during the fighting, traveling from floor to floor and sometimes to the offices where the leaders were holed up. ``Khasbulatov was sitting in an armchair on the fifth floor in an office facing the inner courtyard of the building,'' he reports. ``He was in a state of depression. His nerves were on the brink of collapse. Of course, he didn't believe this would happen.''

Meanwhile, armed militants would periodically come through the halls. The deputies say that they had increasingly felt intimidated by these men, many of them members of extremist groups.


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