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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

rostrop0vich: charity for army

ST. PETERSBURG -- Mstislav Rostropovich, the celebrated cellist and conductor, said Wednesday he would give two charity concerts to help build apartments for retired Russian military officers who leave the Baltic states. "I want to help these people, who are being humiliated at the end of their lives when they can't defend themselves," Rostropovich told a news conference. The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which were forcibly occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940, have been pushing for the withdrawal of all Russian troops from their soil. They are also encouraging retired Soviet officers to leave, but that task is complicated by a shortage of housing in Russia. Rostropovich, an American citizen who travels frequently to his native Russia, said he would perform with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra to help pay for a 100-apartment building in St. Petersburg to house the retirees. The concerts are scheduled for May 29 and 30 in the 4,000-seat Oktyabrsky Concert Hall. St. Petersburg's city government has also promised to contribute 125 million rubles, equivalent to about $68,000, to build the apartment house before the end of the year. "There are more than 25 million Russians living outside of Russia, and our duty is to help as many of them as we can to come back," Mayor Anatoly Sobchak told reporters. The announcement came shortly before Victory Day, the anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany, which is celebrated on May 9. Rostropovich said he felt personally obliged to help the veterans "who defended me in that war. "There have been a few days in my life when I was so overwhelmed by emotions that I broke into tears. May 9, 1945 was one of these days. I was on the streets of Moscow, and I will never forget the faces of those soldiers and officers," said Rostropovich. "That was a holiday I will remember for the rest of my life."