Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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Growing U.S.-Russia Ties Criticized
November 7, 2001

MOSCOW (AP) - Criticizing stronger ties with the United States, demonstrators rallied across Russia on Wednesday to commemorate the 1917 Bolshevik revolution and speak out against an alliance unthinkable during the Cold War.

Beneath blankets of red flags, thousands of demonstrators marched in cities from Vladivostok on the Pacific Coast to Moscow, also lamenting the economic hardships that have marred the decade since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

But their most pointed criticism was aimed at President Vladimir Putin and his unflagging show of support for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism. ``Putin's soul has been sold to Bush,'' demonstrators at a Communist rally in Moscow shouted.

Another group at the same rally waved banners adorned with the Soviet hammer and sickle and chanted ``Taliban, Taliban'' in solidarity with Afghanistan's ruling Islamic militia, under attack by a U.S.-led coalition for harboring terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.

Patriotic Cold War-era songs blared from loudspeakers mounted on two vans accompanying the marchers in the chill under gray skies.

Most Russians oppose the Taliban, but many believe the campaign is giving the United States too much influence too close to Russia. For some fervent communists who blame the United States for the Soviet collapse, virtually any U.S. foe is a friend.

Many Russians who do oppose the Taliban fear violence in Afghanistan could spread to neighboring former Soviet republics.

In Ukraine, communists at rallies marking the revolution also condemned the airstrikes on Afghanistan and urged the government to close its airspace to American aircraft.

``The United States is continuing its policy of world expansion with so-called anti-terrorist actions,'' Anatoliy Yurkovskyi, a communist leader and retired rear admiral, told a crowd of 1,500 in the capital, Kiev.

Nov. 7 was one of the most important holidays on the Soviet calendar, but most former Soviet republics no longer take the day off. In Russia, Boris Yeltsin renamed the holiday the Day of Accord and Reconciliation, but most citizens still think of it as Revolution Day - and it is celebrated mainly by mostly elderly people who lament the Soviet collapse.

``We used to have a wonderful system. We had everything and we were confident of the next day,'' retiree Galina Gavrilova said as Russian Communist Party chief Gennady Zyuganov led marchers in Moscow to a square near the Kremlin, between the Bolshoi Theater and a statue of Karl Marx.

``Now everything has become dirty and dishonest, there's fraud and corruption. Blood is being shed in Chechnya and in contract killings,'' said Nina Novikova, a 64-year-old engineer marching nearby. Police said the rally drew about 7,000 people.

A pro-government liberal party staged a competing march in Moscow, and an extreme nationalist group planned a rally later.

Separately, World War II veterans and military cadets marched in Red Square to mark the 60th anniversary of a parade of 8,000 Soviet troops heading off to the front in 1941, when Nazi forces were just a few dozen miles from Moscow.

About 100 veterans who were among those 8,000 joined the parade, holding their graying heads high and showing off chests full of medals.

No violence was reported at the events, but police were on alert after a few hundred youths stormed a Moscow market last week and beat dark-skinned vendors, killing three and wounding dozens.

Communist rallies throughout the country attracted nearly 345,000 people, the Interior Ministry said - still a fraction of the millions who marched during the Soviet era. Russia's population is 144 million.

In Minsk, the capital of the former Soviet republic of Belarus, some 900 communist demonstrators rallied, chanting slogans including ``Down with capitalism.''

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