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Leader in Failed Gorbachev Coup Dies
March 31, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) - Valentin Pavlov, a former Soviet prime minister who helped lead the failed hard-line coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, has died, Russian news reports said Monday. He was 66 years old.

Pavlov, who died Sunday after a long illness, began his career as a city financial inspector and rose slowly through the Soviet economic bureaucracy, becoming finance minister in 1989 and prime minister in January 1991.

In August 1991, Pavlov and other Soviet hard-liners calling themselves the State Emergency Committee announced Gorbachev was ill and isolated the reformist Soviet leader at a Black Sea resort. Looking glum and nervous, eight of them sat together at a news conference to tell the nation their committee was in charge.

They moved armored columns into Moscow but stopped short of using them on thousands of protesters, who rallied behind Boris Yeltsin, then president of the Russian republic. After just three days, the coup collapsed, Gorbachev was freed, and the plotters were arrested.

Although the hard-liners said they were trying to prevent the USSR from disintegrating into chaos, the coup attempt precipitated its demise. Four months later, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus announced the Soviet Union defunct, forcing Gorbachev to resign on Dec. 25.

One coup plotter committed suicide. Pavlov and the others were sentenced to prison but were released in 1993 and granted amnesty by parliament in 1994. Pavlov went on to head a commercial bank and later turned to economic research, taking leadership posts at several academies and institutes.

Pavlov remained unrepentant about his role in the coup. In 2001, he and several other surviving coup plotters, in an eerie reprise of their last joint appearance together, defended their actions and praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as trying to achieve the same goals that they had.

``The current leadership is making efforts to restore control over the country,'' Pavlov told reporters. ``Today they are trying to do what we attempted to do in the Soviet Union in 1991.''

There was no immediate information survivors or funeral plans.

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