Old Saint Basil's Cathedral in MoscowJohnson's Russia List title and scenes of Saint Petersburg
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#11 - JRL 7139
Tens of Thousands of Russians Protest War
April 9, 2003

MOSCOW (AP) - Tens of thousands of people carried anti-war signs and
chanted outside the U.S. Embassy on Wednesday in the largest Russian
protest so far against the war in Iraq.

A few demonstrators stomped on an American flag, and police detained
several protesters who threw plastic objects at the embassy, the ITAR-Tass
news agency reported.

But passions were mostly calm and the crowd, estimated between 30,000 and
50,000, was far smaller than organizers expected.

A half-dozen speakers briefly denounced the war and prompted chants of
``Down with Bush'' and ``Shame, shame.''

The demonstration was as much in favor of President Vladimir Putin as
anti-war. ``Peace, Russia, President'' was a common banner slogan and the
chant that ended the rally after about 30 minutes of speeches.

The protest was put together by the Moscow office of the pro-Putin United
Russia party, and the Moscow Federation of Trade Unions, a group that
cooperates with the government.

All neighborhood kiosks, the lifeblood of Russian shopping, were closed for
much of the day, apparently by order, and police closed nearly two miles of
one of Moscow's main thoroughfares to let protesters converge on the embassy.

Russian radio stations reported that employers were ordering workers to
attend and that classes at some schools were canceled for the day.

Vladimir Varfolomeyev, an announcer at the Echo of Moscow station, compared
the protest rally to the sham public demonstrations of the Communist Party
in the Soviet era, saying, ``I have only one word for the organizers: shame.''
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