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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How the Rebels Left Lefortovo

Former Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, bearded and decked out in full military regalia, walked out the front gate of Lefortovo prison last weekend with the bearing of a future presidential candidate.


His partner in last October's White House uprising, a weary-looking Ruslan Khasbulatov, skulked out a side entrance like a man through with politics.


The way in which each of the leaders of last year's parliament rebellion chose to leave jail Saturday, after four months of captivity, offered revealing clues about their political futures.


One group, led by Rutskoi, left from the main entrance of former KGB's notorious jail and joined the waiting crowd of 1,000 cheering supporters and a battalion of journalists.


Each member of this group, which included Communist firebrand Viktor Anpilov and Ilya Konstantinov, the leader of the banned National Salvation Front, addressed the crowd and looked ready to head right back into the rough-and-tumble of Russian politics.


Not so former parliament speaker Khasbulatov and three other leaders of the uprising, who tried to sneak unnoticed out a side entrance of the prison, where waiting cars packed with guards and loved ones whisked them off.


Towards midday on Saturday, the families and lawyers of the detainees arrived at the walls of the unremarkable brick complex, including Khasbulatov's wife, Raisa, and Rutskoi's wife, Lyudmila, and their two sons. This fueled the hopes of the crowd that had gathered and they launched into a medley of patriotic songs and paeans to their heros.


At 2:00 P.M., Valery Isayev, the lawyer for General Albert Makashov, imprisoned for his role in leading the Oct. 3 attack on the Ostankino television tower, said that the detainees had signed their agreement to parliament's declaration of amnesty. This cleared the way for their release.


Khasbulatov went free first at 4:00 P.M., accompanied by his wife and a score of men who had arrived in cars with license plates for the former parliament speaker's native Chechnya.


Khasbulatov wore a nifty black suit and a broad smile, but otherwise looked as weary as the day he was arrested after President Boris Yeltsin's tanks pounded the White House into submission last October. Official figures state that 147 people died in two days of fighting.


Khasbulatov sped off to his Moscow apartment, the fleet of Chechen automobiles following close behind. Later, he would tell Interfax he was out of politics because he was "disgusted" with the current politicians.


Fifteen minutes after Khasbulatov, a bearded and beaming-but-tight-lipped Makashov was spirited out of the side entrance and into a BMW sedan whose driver said Makashov was bound for his native Samara on the Volga.


Following Makashov were two other leaders of the October uprising -- Andrei Dunayev, the rebellious parliament's "interior minister," and Vladislav Achalov, named "defense minister" by the Supreme Soviet.


A few minutes later, Rutskoi exited the main entrance of Lefortovo, looking like a Russian Fidel Castro in his major general's uniform bedecked with the Hero of the Soviet Union medal he won in Afghanistan. Looking slightly wobbly as he slipped on the icy pavement, Rutskoi smiled and waved to the crowd, which was chanting "Rutskoi, president! Rutskoi, president!"


"I have been with you to the end and the main thing now is calm," Rutskoi, 47, told the crowd through a bullhorn. Later, an aide told Reuters that the former vice president would likely contest the next presidential elections.


The spectacle would not have been complete without a cameo appearance from legislator Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who appeared to steal some of Rutskoi's thunder and was nearly run over by the former vice president's escaping vehicle.


"Didn't we help you? I told you we would do it," Zhirinovsky told Rutskoi's son Dima, patting him on the back.


Asked about the scheduled 1996 presidential elections, which Zhirinovsky has predicted he would win, the irrepressible lawmaker told reporters: "It's between Rutskoi and me."


After Rutskoi departed, Konstantinov walked out into the crowd, embracing and kissing supporters. He later told NTV television that he intended to return to his duties as leader of the hardline National Salvation Front.


The last -- and perhaps the most frightening -- of those released Saturday was Alexander Barkashov, the leader of the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity Party.


Still on crutches from bullet wounds he received in December, Barkashov was quoted by Interfax as saying "I will be doing whatever I was doing before."