On the afternoon of the first day, we were in Yeltsin’s office discussing our plans when an aide rushed in and told us that some of the soldiers had gotten out of their tanks in front of the building to talk to people. Yeltsin jumped up and said, “I’m going out there.”
I objected. “You can’t do it,” I told him. “It’s an enormous risk. We have no idea what the putschists might be doing. It’s too dangerous.”
Yeltsin didn’t listen to me. He told someone to grab him a copy of the appeal and headed out of the office. We all ran after him. Outside, to the horror of his security guards, he clambered onto a tank in front of the White House to read the appeal. Not sure what else to do, we all jumped up after him. The crowd had grown to about 30,000 people by then, and they filled the square with cheering. Out in the throng, camera shutters snapped. We had not yet won the war, but as the picture of Yeltsin on the tank swept across the world’s front pages, we had at least won the battle of symbols.
It’s an interesting symbol, neither a posture of intimidation nor one of burning rage, but of exhorting a stand for an appeal to what he believed was right.