Fear of a military coup spilled from the streets into the Soviet legislature on Wednesday, and rumors reached such a crescendo that the country's defense chief felt obliged to declare: ``No army should use arms against its own people.'
In a 10-minute speech slated for national broadcast later, Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov responded to two weeks of reports in liberal newspapers and accusations by politicians that the military is plotting to overthrow the government.Such rumors have circulated sporadically throughout President Mikhail Gorbachev's 5 1/2-year rule, fueled in part by his supposed alienation of the military brass because of his moves to cut troops and the defense budget.
Some newspaper reports spoke of paratroopers dressed in combat gear, bullet-proof vests and helmets arriving at a military airfield near Moscow. Others reported that the military leaderships already have a concrete plan to take control, region-by-region. Troops from Ryazan and Tula were reportedly put in a state of combat readiness.
Yazov, speaking to the Supreme Soviet, said there were troop movements in Moscow in recent weeks but said they were related either to soldiers' participation in the traditional Nov. 7 Revolution Day parade or their help in gathering this year's record harvest. He said it was normal for certain types of troops to travel with ammunition and in military vehicles.