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GORBACHEV WILL CREATE ALTERNATIVE TO CURRENT `MANEUVERING’ REGIME

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Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Friday marked the third anniversary of the hard-line Communist coup that ousted him by announcing plans to form a democratic opposition movement.

Gorbachev told the ITAR-Tass news agency that "fussing and maneuvering have been substituted for a really new policy" to guide Russia.He gave no details about the movement or its goals other than to say that it would be "a democratic movement alternative to the present regime."

Russian newspapers were filled with stories and commentary about the Aug. 18-21, 1991, putsch that briefly ousted Gorbachev and accelerated the collapse of the Soviet Union four months later.

President Boris Yeltsin, who boldly led opposition to the coup, didn't even plan to be in Moscow to mark the anniversary, a spokesman said. Yeltsin was on a working trip in southern Russia.

The top military, KGB and political figures who led the coup were granted amnesty earlier this year by Russia's new parliament. A court earlier this month acquitted the only one who chose to stand trial.

Gorbachev told the Interfax news agency that "though the amnesty freed (the coup plotters) of any judicial punishment, no one has relieved them of the moral guilt."

When asked if another coup is possible, Gorbachev, who also heads an independent think-tank called the Gorbachev Foundation, replied, "The officer's corps was humiliated after August 1991 and October 1993, when the army was brought in conflict with the people, it will not act against the people."

Gorbachev had been vacationing with his family on the Crimea on Aug. 18, 1991, when the coup plotters placed him under house arrest. The next day they declared him deposed for health reasons.

The poorly organized coup fell apart after three days in the face of the popular uprising led by Yeltsin.

"The state of emergency and rejection of democracy was the most dangerous way for Russia," Gorbachev said. "It would have inevitably led to civil war."

Today, Gorbachev is despised by many Russians who blame him for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic woes, crime and ethnic conflicts that followed.