MOSCOW -- Russian democrats charged yesterday that unrepentant Communists, allies in Parliament and leaders of the failed 1991 coup masterminded the violent May Day clashes between demonstrators and police that wounded more than 200.
"It was a planned action prepared well in advance," said Vasily N. Feklunin, an Information Ministry official who witnessed the two-hour melee in the Moscow square named for cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin.
Mr. Feklunin said a "mobile attack unit" of young men with homemade weapons rushed from the ranks of the mostly elderly Communist and nationalist marchers and hurled themselves at the police.
Casualty counts indicate the police were sorely unprepared for the first massive street violence of the post-Communist era: 205 policemen were injured and 27 were hospitalized, one in serious condition.
The Interior Ministry said a dozen protesters were hospitalized.
The demonstration, intended to arouse sympathy for the anti-reform cause on a day that in Soviet times was the official holiday of the toiling masses, may have backfired.
Both Parliament and the prosecutor's office launched investigations of the May Day incident.
Repeatedly yesterday, Russian TV aired videotape showing the demonstrators, their faces twisted with fury, attacking cowering riot police with metal pipes, rocks and bottles.
Backers of President Boris Yeltsin suggested that the clash was intended to discredit his regime.