Concerts, Chirac but No Uriah Heep

Russia will celebrate its national holiday Thursday with outdoor concerts, sports competitions and a Kremlin awards ceremony attended by former French President Jacques Chirac. But a concert by the legendary British rock band Uriah Heep was canceled amid a dispute with its tour promoters.

Russia Day on June 12 marks the date in 1990 that the Congress of the People's Deputies of the Soviet Russian Republic adopted a declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. For most Russians, however, the holiday is an eagerly welcomed long weekend.

President Dmitry Medvedev will present state awards during a ceremony in the Kremlin's Georgiyevsky Hall, a Kremlin official said. Chirac will receive a state award for his dedication to human rights, while Vladimir Arnold will be recognized for his accomplishments in mathematics and Alisa Freindlich for her contributions to classical theater.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will attend the ceremony, but he is not scheduled to deliver a speech, said Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

The city's department of physical culture and sport is organizing a track competition called the Kremlin Mile, starting at Manezh Square at 2 p.m.

Concerts and special events for children, veterans and the elderly will be held across Moscow, including on Manezh Square and the main parks.

But Uriah Heep will not be performing as planned. The band — which in 1987 became the first Western rock group to play inside the Soviet Union — called off the concert at the last minute because of the tour promoters' "complete lack of adherence to contractual stipulations" to provide visas and make scheduled payments, among other things, it said on its official web site.

Weather forecasters are predicting an overcast Thursday, with rain later in the day and a high of 22 degrees Celsius.

On Wednesday, a Russia Day concert featuring Sergei Lazarev and the groups Assorti and Pelagea will be held in the Luzhniki stadium at 6 p.m. From Friday to Sunday, a series of concerts will be held at the Kolomenskoye park.

First called Independence Day in 1991, the June 12 holiday was renamed the Day of the Declaration of the Sovereignty of the Russian Federation by then-President Boris Yeltsin in 1994. In 2002, Putin gave the holiday its current name, Russia Day.

The new name is catching on. Today, 55 percent of Russians correctly named the holiday, compared with 38 percent in 2003, according to a recent survey by the Public Opinion Foundation.