Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Officials Stage Show Of Strength

As Moscow prepared Friday for a potentially volatile weekend of anti-government demonstrations. President Boris Yeltsin and several thousand mourners paid their last respects to the riot police officer killed in pro-communist riots a week ago.


Making a clear show of strength, Yeltsin filed past the open casket of 25-year-old Vladimir Tolokneyev accompanied by Security Minister Viktor Barannikov, Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and Moscow Police Chief Vladimir Pankratov -- the three men responsible for keeping order on the streets of the capital.


Outside, Yeltsin promised that the May Day riots -- in which Tolokneyev died and 600 people were injured -- would not be repeated on Sunday, the Victory Day holiday marking the anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945.


Hardline legislators in Russia's parliament have promised to defy a ban on pro-communist marches Sunday, threatening more violent clashes with the police if they are blocked from reaching Red Square.


At the funeral Friday, held at the Culture Palace of the Interior Ministry north of the inner Ring Road, a military band played for two hours as a steady flow of people placed flowers at the casket.


Tolokneyev died of wounds suffered when his head was crushed between two trucks on Leninsky Prospect on May 1 during clashes with Communist and nationalist demonstrators. Yeltsin on Friday awarded Tolokneyev a posthumous Order of Personal Valor.


"This young man put himself in the way of fascism", police chief Pankratov said during the funeral. "He appeared to have more foresight than many politicians and deputies".


He added, "The police supports the president who was here today, because the president was chosen by the people". Yeltsin and Mayor Yury Luzhkov expressed their condolences to the family of the young officer, who was an Afghan war veteran.


The president stood quietly at the coffin and shook hands with the wife and parents of the deceased sergeant.


As Yeltsin bowed down to shake the frail hand of Tolokneyev's mother, she burst into tears and with a pleading voice asked who would answer for the tragic loss. Yeltsin replied that a group had been set up to investigate the matter.


As the body was carried out into the spring sun by weeping OMON officers, some onlookers asked Yeltsin what would happen on Sunday.


"Don't be afraid. I will be there", he said.


A close friend of Tolokneyev's said after the funeral that he still could not believe what had happened.


"Volodya was such an honest person", said Albert Gravin, 26, who grew up together with Tolokneyev in Strunino, a village outside Moscow. "He did not deserve to die. He had always protected everyone in those kinds of demonstrations; he was fearless. I hope at least that now, after his death, people will have learned so that this does not repeat itself on May 9".


Gravin added that he did not think there would be any acts of revenge on the part of the riot police.


"Of course we are angry", he said. "But more violence will not bring Volodya back to life. We want May 9 to pass as peacefully as possible".


Interior Minister Viktor Yerin told parliament Thursday that the riot police had been guilty only of showing "impermissible moderation" in the face of provocation by demonstrators. Yerin vowed tougher action in the future.


Tolokneyev will be buried Saturday in his home village in the Vladimir region to the northeast of Moscow.