The White House was now ground zero of the resistance to the putschists. In short order we dispatched Andrei Kozyrev, the newly appointed Russian foreign minister, to various Western capitals with a personal letter from Yeltsin. Outside, people came from train stations and airports, from distant towns and cities, and joined Muscovites by the walls of the White House, where they began building barricades. At first they were rudimentary things, piled up out of whatever materials were at hand. But by evening our supporters were constructing more formidable emplacements out of trolley buses, cars, and construction materials, blocking off all approaches to the building.
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.
Just before midnight, half a dozen Army tanks formally joined our side, maneuvering into place to defend the White House. Inside, we worked through the night, monitoring for troop movements in the city and maintaining contact with our allies and supporters throughout the country. Yeltsin, always fastidious, stayed in his suit and tie. Journalists, aides, and a few deputies took catnaps on couches. It was a long and uncertain night.