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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

In White House, a Scent of Hardship

Yury Manayenkov has not showered in 10 days, has no change of clothes and when he shaves it is with the limited cold water that still flows as high as the sixth floor of the besieged White House.


The legislator, from the central Russian town of Lipetsk, sleeps atop four chairs in his office, without a pillow. With only a few rooms still lit by the building's generator crippled by lack of fuel, he sits amid candles too dim to read by.


Despite the hardships, Manayenkov and the other 100 or so deputies still in the seat of Russia's disbanded parliament do not plan to go home any time soon.


"In the last few days we've really come together", said Manayenkov. "We live here as one big family".


In some ways, these final defenders have created a last small bastion of Soviet Communism. Believers receive free food with coupons, medical treatment is provided without payment, and housing does not cost a cent.


The cafeteria specializes in monotony, with bread, cheese, and salami the only offerings. The few parliament supporters still camped outside boil water on bonfires for a rare glass of tea or coffee.


"I'm a soldier; I can eat canned goods and bread", parliament-appointed president Alexander Rutskoi told The Moscow Times, reflecting the bravado that many still declare 10 days into the siege.


Rutskoi does get "home" delivery from the remaining waitresses, but most are served in the cafeterias with salami and cheese sandwiches just like in old times, before the White House was surrounded by barbed wire and thousands of crack riot police.


"We don't notice anything, we just work and that's all", said Nina Mikhailova, 53, who like all the staff spends her days and nights at the White House. "We are like doctors, only they heal people and we feed them".


Manayenkov's "big family" live in a mini-world separated from the rest of Moscow by a few hundred meters of no-man's land and police lines. Passing through document checks by Interior Ministry troops with bulletproof vests, riot helmets and machine guns gives the visitor an impression of crossing an international border.


On leaving the final government checkpoint, visitors arrive at a narrow no-man's zone of scattered rocks and debris before the haphazard barricades that mark the perimeters of the White House's resistance.


Inside, Rutskoi's office remains a den of relative luxury. On Thursday evening, the generators powered two TVs outside his office and an electronic typewriter. Nevertheless, Rutskoi looked haggard from lack of sleep and had thick bags under his eyes.


His office still has a working cellular telephone, but shortages of electricity have worn out the battery on most units in the building.


The promise of a call home is one of the few things that still excites people here.


A group of cafeteria workers and volunteer doctors hurriedly made their way down a darkened hallway using flashlights Thursday night in the hope of making a call home, only to find the phone dead from overuse.


Others desperately ask the few visiting journalists to call their home and tell relatives that they are well.


According to one doctor running a medical counter in the parliament lobby, some people are falling ill under the adverse conditions, and medicine is running low. The main ailments are of the stomach from lack of clean water, and respiratory infections from sleeping in cold, damp conditions, she said.


Bands of guards, some of them from neo-Nazi or extreme nationalists groups, keep order in the building and in recent days have installed a 10 P. M. curfew in the stairways, and midnight curfew in the halls.


They roam the hallways armed with Kalashnikov automatic rifles, occasionally shining a light in stranger's faces to ask for identification.


Despite the grim conditions that Rutskoi calls a "political concentration camp", the remaining parliamentarians and supporters keep their public face upbeat and uncompromising.


"If I wasn't sure of victory, then it would be senseless to stay here", said Rutskoi, Russia's other president.