MOSCOW — Josef Stalin's feared police chief, Lavrenti P. Beria, went on a hunger strike before his 1953 trial and begged on his knees for mercy before he was shot, a government newspaper reported over the weekend.
Eyewitness accounts, published in the weekend supplement of Izvestia, provided dramatic details never before released of the fall of the man known as "the Kremlin Monster" and said that unlike many of Stalin's purge victims, he refused to plead guilty.
"He admitted nothing," the Soviet marshal in charge of the guard where Beria was being held was quoted as saying. "Then he declared a hunger strike that lasted for 11 days. We had to bend our efforts to make sure the villain survived to face trial."
Marshal Pavel F. Batitsky was named in the accounts for the first time as the man who carried out Beria's death sentence, and his widow was quoted by the paper as saying her husband "used to recall how Beria went down on his hands and knees begging to be spared."