In the early part of the afternoon, the first Politburo members returned to Moscow following their short trips. The bleak and uncertain atmosphere they found the city in mirrored their own attitudes and feelings sharply. The rides from the airport to their residences took them through Moscow and separately, the men who ruled the Soviet Union took note of the deteriorating conditions. Many more soldiers and armored vehicles were visible in the streets compared to the hours before their departures. The few civilians out gave the troops a wide berth as they went about their activities.
Word had reached some of the Politburo members about the wave of arrests that took place in the pre-dawn hours. None were surprised by the move and silently they wondered to themselves if the round up was the true reason behind their spontaneous departures to inspect the front. The tactics of the KGB Chairman corresponded to his agency’s strategy.
News then arrived that the day’s Politburo meeting time had been moved from 3PM to 9PM. Ostensibly, this was done to accommodate those Politburo members delayed in their returns. The true reason was to give the KGB more time to chase down a handful of potential opposition figures who had been missed in the initial sweep.
By late afternoon, a handful of Politburo members had convened in a dacha in the Lenin Hills. The purpose of the meeting was to share observations and talk confidentially about what each man had seen and experienced in his time away from Moscow. Vladimir Dolgikh, a full Politburo member, had quietly arranged the gathering on the flight back to Moscow after he was informed of the KGB arrests. He was perhaps the only man on the outside of KGB headquarters and the Kremlin who was aware that Boris Yeltsin had managed to avoid arrest and was now in hiding outside of Moscow. The discussion Dolgikh had with Yeltsin a few days earlier was branded in his mind. He’d warned Yeltsin that the war was not going well and the time for action by the Politburo and select comrades might be drawing near. In the aftermath of Madrid and Gorki, the talk had been all but forgotten as a new reality descended upon the global war. Yeltsin was still alive and with Dolgikh’s assistance, he would make his presence felt.
For the time being, there were other matters that required attention. Dolgikh held a good notion about who on the Politburo he could rely on when the time came. He felt the need to be one-hundred percent sure, however, before he moved. After what he’d seen and been told in the last 24 hours, Dolgikh was disillusioned and disgusted. He was sent west to the wartime headquarters of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet headquarters for an unimpeded briefing on its wartime activity. There, he learned that the fleet’s long-awaited breakout into the North Sea and Atlantic was no longer possible. For the first time, Dolgikh was given the truth about Soviet fortunes in a theater of war. Even for a cynic, the unvarnished truth was nearly too much to handle. Romanov’s recklessness had been placed on full display for his consumption and the Politburo member was horrified with the path that he and his comrades had allowed the general secretary to lead the Soviet Union down.
As the invited members arrived individually at the dacha, Dolgikh wondered if each man’s experiences were similar to his own. He fervently hoped this was the case because collectively, the Politburo’s report to the General Secretary later that evening would determine the fate of the Soviet Union.