. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Huge Crowds Turn Out for Yeltsin Concert

A huge crowd of Muscovites estimated in the hundreds of thousands turned out on Red Square on Wednesday for a rock concert and election campaign rally in support of President Boris Yeltsin that was larger than any the capital has yet seen.


A mass of humanity attempting to get a view of the musical and political stars overflowed into the side streets around the Kremlin and Red Square, causing crowd crushes at times bordering on the dangerous.


How many were there for the concert, however, and how many to support Yeltsin's bid for re-election Sunday was unclear.


The legions were largely made up of young people, many of them clad in T-shirts bearing the names of Nirvana, Green Day, Guns n' Roses, The Beatles, the Doors and other rock groups.


A number wore pro-Yeltsin buttons or carried Russian flags. Not far from the Rossiya Hotel, a group of young people on roller blades whipped by carrying a large Russian flag and shouting "Yeltsin! Yeltsin!"


In the wake of Tuesday night's subway bombing, the authorities were taking no chances with security. Dozens of military trucks were parked up and down Ilyinka Street near the government offices on Staraya Ploshchad, along with dozens more near the Rossiya Hotel, some filled with Interior Ministry troops with riot shields and shotguns.


President Boris Yeltsin addressed the enthusiastically cheering concert-goers, vowing that he would not allow violence to disrupt Sunday's presidential election.


"We have chosen freedom and human dignity, but there are many opponents of this choice," he said. "Yesterday's Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, who is also up for election on June 16, addressed the rally as well.


"Over the five years of freedom Russia has made great progress and even the mistakes made cannot belittle that progress," Luzhkov said. "Our movement to freedom and progress is associated with Boris Yeltsin, who was the first to rise in defense of freedom."


Other presidential candidates celebrated Independence Day with more modest events.


A few thousand supporters of ultranationalist presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky gathered at Pushkin Square before noon, bearing the nationalist flag of St. Andrew, posters with Zhirinovsky's image, or banners extolling their candidate or demanding "the imposition of order" and the revival of Russia's superpower status.


They were entertained by pro-Zhirinovsky heavy metal tunes from a sound truck, a Russian folk ensemble and a dancing man in a bear costume.


Four supporters of Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, clad in white T-shirts, stood on the opposite side of Tverskaya Street handing out campaign literature.


At noon a black limousine ferrying the LDPR leader arrived at the scene. Zhirinovsky, dressed in his trademark bright yellow campaign jacket and surrounded by bodyguards, joined the procession, and the parade soon got underway, led by the bear, a Dixieland jazz band, and a small marching band, which played a medley of Broadway show tunes.


The marchers gathered at Teatralnaya Ploshchad. The LDPR leader was uncharacteristically moderate during his address.


"Our voters, our people are tired of extremes," he told the crowd. "They want to live peacefully as our demonstration today was peaceful.


"In the name of our party and our millions of supporters, we say 'No' to any provocation," he said, referring to Tuesday night's metro blast. He urged both his supporters and the army to remain calm.


Zhirinovsky denounced the "Soviet Communists" for having tried to impose communism around the world and "the democrats" who, he said, have turned Russia into a "semi-colony."


At the same time, some 1,500 members and supporters of the radical Working Russia and the Russian Communist Workers Party gathered at Lubyanka Square in front of the former KGB headquarters in support of Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.


Viktor Anpilov, head of Working Russia, blamed "the immediate circle of the administration" for trying to whip up anti-communist hysteria, in order to destabilize the situation.


Union of Officers leader Stanislav Terekhov, who is running for Moscow's vice mayor post, warned that the authorities are preparing "provocations" against Anpilov and other opposition leaders, with the intention of putting off the elections or declaring a state of emergency.


Zyuganov himself spoke to about 3,000 supporters at a Moscow movie theater, in what seemed an event targeted at the country's youth vote. Much of the auditorium was filled with young people, and Zyuganov received a bouquet and a kiss from several 20-something women. A huge banner spanning the wall behind him proclaimed, "The ideas of Great October are invincible!"


Drenched in sweat yet looking quite at ease, Zyuganov made brief remarks and then fielded questions, most of which concerned such student-oriented concerns as obligatory military service and government-provided free education and student stipends.