Fri, 03 Apr 2020

General Dmitry Yazov, the last Soviet marshal and a member of the so-called Gang of Eight that tried to take over the collapsing Soviet Union in 1991, has died in Moscow at the age of 95.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on February 25 that Yazov died 'after a severe and long illness.'

Yazov was defense minister when he supported a group that tried to take over the Soviet Union just four months before its collapse in 1991 and placed Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev under house arrest.

The group declared itself the provisional government, the State Committee for Emergency Situations, known by its Russian acronym GKChP.

One 'Gang of Eight' member, Soviet Interior Minister Boris Pugo, committed suicide shortly after the coup collapsed.

The 10 other men named as coup plotters were all granted amnesty by the State Duma on February 23, 1994 -- ending their 14-month trial on high treason charges by the military branch of the Supreme Court.

They went on individually to play various roles in politics and the private sector in post-communist Russia.

The leader of the group, Gennady Yanayev, who at the time declared himself acting president of the Soviet Union, died in Moscow at the age of 72 in September 2010.

With Yazov's death, only one member of the GKChP remains alive -- 87-year-old Oleg Baklanov, who was then deputy chairman of the presidential Defense Council.

Last year, a court in Lithuania sentenced Yazov to 10 years in prison in absentia for his role in a deadly crackdown on the Baltic state's independence movement in January 1991.

Yazov, along with former KGB officer Mikhail Golovatov, were the most prominent of 67 defendants in the trial over the momentous events that unfolded in Vilnius, when the Soviet government tried to halt the country's collapse by cracking down on the first republic to declare independence.

Golovatov was sentenced in absentia to 12 years in prison.

The verdicts followed three years of proceedings focusing on the deaths of 14 people killed by the Soviet Army in the Lithuanian capital that month.

Lithuanian prosecutors say all but one of the victims died during the storming of the state television headquarters and TV tower by Soviet paratroopers on January 13, 1991. More than 700 people were wounded.

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and Dozhd

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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