Gennady Yanayev, one of the leaders of the August 1991 coup attempt, said in an interview published Saturday that he was drunk when he signed a decree naming himself as head of the Soviet Union.
But Yanayev denied he had any prior knowledge of the attempt to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev, saying he had been drinking with a friend the night before the failed putsch.
"Had I planned to take part in the plot, I would have abstained from alcohol: Don't you think so?" Yanayev told the newspaper Novy Vzglyad.
Yanayev and 11 others are to go on trial on April 14 on charges of leading the coup attempt. They face a maximum penalty of death.
Russian media had speculated on Yanayev's alleged heavy drinking during the abortive Aug. 18-21 coup, and some of the plotters claimed one of the reasons for its failure was his intoxication.
Although Yanayev admitted in the interview that he was drunk, he denied that he was incapacitated.
"My body is such that I remain sane even after drinking all my buddies under the table," he said. "My face just gets red after a couple of glasses _ nothing more."
Yanayev said he was summoned to the Kremlin in the evening Aug. 18 and asked to sign the decree, which made him acting president. He had been vice president under Gorbachev.
He said the decree was prepared in the KGB, and that the current Russian Defense Minister, Pavel Grachev, took part in drafting it.
Although Gorbachev was restored to power, the coup attempt and Boris Yeltsin's defiance of the putsch fatally weakened his position and the Soviet Union was dissolved five months later.