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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gorbachev Knew, Plotter Says

An accused coup plotter and former close friend of Mikhail Gorbachev has said that the former Soviet president not only knew of plans for the August 1991 coup, but was an active participant.

Anatoly Lukyanov, the former speaker of the Soviet legislature who had been friends with Gorbachev since their university days, told a Russian television talk show that Gorbachev had endorsed introducing emergency measures in August 1991, and that he had holed up in his Crimean dacha of his own free will.

"The need to take emergency measures in the country was discussed in various top echelons in August 1991 with Mikhail Gorbachev's active participation", Itar-Tass quoted Lukyanov as saying on the "Moment of Truth" interview show aired Monday night.

Lukyanov also said that had he wanted to, Gorbachev could have made contact with the outside world from his dacha in Foros using two long-distance telephones that were not cut off, or by using a communications system in his car.

He said that instead, the president sat out the coup, waiting to return to Moscow either to introduce presidential rule or as the hero of Russia's radical democrats.

Gorbachev, who denied prior knowledge of the coup attempt, was held under guard at his dacha in Foros, Crimea, from Aug. 18, 1991, until the coup plotters surrendered three days later.

In previous statements other coup plotters, including former Vice President Gennady Yanayev, have said that Gorbachev was aware of plans to introduce emergency rule.

Gorbachev will be summoned as a witness to the coup plotter's trial, scheduled to begin April 14.

At a press conference Tuesday, Valentin Stepankov, Russia's public prosecutor, said that investigators were still questioning the Soviet president on his association and involvement in orders carried out by his KGB chief, Vladimir Kryuchkov, who is also one of the accused.

Kryuchkov is accused of compiling a list of legislators and other political leaders to be rounded up and arrested during the coup, as well as ordering the surveillance of "hundreds of thousands" of private citizens, Stepankov said.

Gorbachev does not face criminal charges right now, Stepankov said, but could be charged if testimony during the trial reveals that he was involved in planning the coup.

The Soviet president was one of over 2, 700 witnesses questioned in the coup investigation, and one of 120 who have been summoned by the court to trial.

Stepankov has published a book on the investigation, an act for which he has been widely criticized.

On Tuesday, he defended his decision to publish it: "Not only do I have the legal right", he said, "but I had a moral right as well".