Coup De Grace

The plotters who tried to overthrow Gorbachev finally go on trial

The curtain rose last week on what could prove the final act in a drama of tragicomic ineptitude: the "vodka putsch." Remember the three days in August 1991 when a dozen communist leaders imprisoned Mikhail Gorbachev and seized control of the Soviet Union? After the scheme fell apart, one conspirator drank himself into a stupor, another shot himself dead, and a third made a break for the airport -- where he was arrested with the key to his new Kremlin office still in his pocket.

The long-awaited trial of 12 plotters accused of staging the ill-fated coup finally began in Moscow...

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