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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Backers Stump on Moslem Holy Day

Thousands of worshippers celebrated a major Moslem holiday at Moscow's biggest mosque, where Boris Yeltsin's chief of staff delivered a thinly veiled campaign pitch for the president.

Nikolai Yegorov, speaking Sunday outside the mosque next to the indoor Olympic stadium, told the crowd that thanks to Yeltsin's reforms, Moslems play an increasingly important role in Russian political and cultural life.

Russia must not become the arena of religious wars, Yegorov added, in remarks shown on RTR Russian Television.

Ironically, as former nationalities minister and deputy prime minister with responsibility for Chechnya, Yegorov was an architect of Russia's decision to wage war on the predominantly Moslem breakaway republic.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov also spoke to the crowd and praised Yeltsin's democratic reforms, reminding Moslems that under Communist rule there was no religious freedom.

Yeltsin's main rival in the June 16 presidential election is Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov.

Sunday's gathering marked Kurban Bairam, the most sacred day on the Islamic calendar, when many Moslems make a pilgrimage, or hajj, to their holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

Some 1 million Moslems live in the Russian capital alone, according to RTR.