Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Coup Plotter Says Try Gorbachev

General Valentin Varennikov, at the opening of his trial for helping plot the abortive August 1991 coup, asked the court Tuesday to launch criminal proceedings against Mikhail Gorbachev for breaking up the Soviet Union. About a hundred of Varennikov's supporters in the courtroom cheered and the ultranationalist leader of the Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, showed up in force with members of his faction to express solidarity. "I want the court to consider my actions as a link in a chain of cause and effect," said Varennikov, 71. "We wouldn't have set up the Emergency Committee if it hadn't been for so-called perestroika." Varennikov had been dispatched by the Emergency Committee to fly to Crimea in order to persuade Gorbachev to step down. The former president showed him the door. After the coup failed, Varennikov was arrested along with 12 other alleged plotters and spent 15 months in jail before he was freed because of poor health. While other accused coup plotters accepted an amnesty four months ago, Varennikov and his lawyer decided to fight on. "My ideas, principles and convictions have remained unshakable," he declared as his case resumed Tuesday at the Russian Supreme Court. "I served my country for fifty years and I knew what I was fighting for." Varennikov and his lawyer, Dmitry Shteinberg, demanded that the court open criminal cases against Gorbachev and Rafik Nishanov, the former chairman of a chamber of the Soviet parliament. Varennikov claimed that Nishanov had illegally stripped him of parliamentary immunity prior to his arrest. The presiding judge, Viktor Yaskin, ruled that the court could not charge Gorbachev or Nishanov, since Russian criminal procedure demanded that a court should only concern itself with one case at a time. He redirected Varennikov's request to the Public Prosecutor's Office, which is unlikely to proceed with it since it put together the case against Varennikov. Both Gorbachev and Nishanov will be called as witnesses during the trial. "I like the fact that they sent my request to the prosecutor's office," Varennikov said during a break in the proceedings. "At least that's legal action." In all other respects, the first day of the trial was a sweeping success for the prosecution. Shteinberg proposed to call Yevgeny Shaposhnikov, commander of the CIS armed forces, to testify that Gorbachev had urged him to use military force to preserve the Soviet Union, but the judge dismissed that as irrelevant. Shteinberg only succeeded in calling several former suspects in the coup plotters' case and a few low-level officials from the former KGB and Defense Ministry. Vladimir Zhirinovsky arrived during the lunch break, bringing with him around 30 deputies of his Duma faction. They posed for a photograph with Varennikov, who said he was flattered by Zhirinovsky's support. "We are right with you," said Zhirinovsky, who had supported the 1991 coup. "I am a reserve captain myself and I served in the Soviet army, not the Russian one." "Your barometer was working right back in 1991," Varennikov replied. "We have to finally tell people the truth about what happened and who broke up the Soviet Union