RIAN archive 835340 Antiterrorist operation in Makhachkala

Unity Forces in Moscow, the day after the coup

The Winter Coup was a major event in Russia in December 2003, when reformer politicians, backed by the Unity Forces, stormed the Kremlin in order to oust Premier Boris Yeltsin.

In 2002, scandal had rocked the Yeltsin administration. During his time as Premier, Yeltsin had embezzled billions of rubles into his own personal estates, had propped up and funded economic oligarchies, and had created lists of political opponents that must be eliminated. With widespread corruption, a tanking economy, and various nationalist movements rocking Russia, Russian Parliament moved to remove Yeltsin from power. Yeltsin ordered the military to return to Moscow to defend him, which escalated the crisis. Meeting inside the Russian Government Building, Parliament began the impeachment process on Yeltsin. Yeltsin responded by shelling the building with tanks, and dozens of politicians were arrested by Yeltsin's personal guards.

Escaping to a safe house, Alexander Rutskoy and Mikhail Gorbachev made plans to overthrow Yeltsin and install Rutskoy as Premier. Joining them was Vladimir Putin, the head of the Unity Forces, a large paramilitary force tasked with ending nationalist movements. On December 9, 2003, Rutskoy, Gorbachev, Putin, and 400 Unity soldiers arrived at the Kremlin and demanded Yeltsin's surrender. Instead, snipers opened fire, killing Rutskoy. The Kremlin was then stormed, resulting in Yeltsin's death. Gorbachev took control, and Putin cracked down on violence in Moscow.

Gorbachev announced the dissolution of Unitarian Russia, to be replaced with the Russian Federation. Large portions of the military defected, and the Unity Forces were used to put down any resistance. With the collapse of Unitarianism, the Winter Coup marked an end to the Cold War.

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