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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nationwide Protest Day Called Success by Unions

Wednesday's national day of protest, which saw protesters in hundreds of towns and cities across Russia call for the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin, was a resounding success, union leaders claimed Thursday.

But Kremlin officials said turnout was much lower than expected, and that most Russians had shown their support for Yeltsin by staying home.

Predictions by opposition leaders that picketing would linger after the day of protest were borne out Thursday as isolated demonstrations continued. About 300 workers in the Yaroslavl region, east of Moscow, blocked the main northbound railway for three hours Thursday, Itar-Tass reported.

Meanwhile thousands of picketers took to the streets once again Thursday morning in the far eastern Kamchatka peninsula. Labor leaders in Kamchatka estimated the number of protesters came to 22,000, adding that the demonstrations could continue until Monday.

Mikhail Shmakov, leader of the Russian Federation of Independent Trade Unions, said Wednesday's day of protest "reached its goal, and the voices of millions have been heard across the world."

Shmakov estimated "from tentative data" that 25 million people joined strikes and demonstrations all over Russia demanding wage arrears, economic reform and the president's resignation.

"Yesterday saw the most massive all-Russian action in the last few years organized by the labor unions," he said.

But there have been vast discrepancies in the figures given for the number of participants involved. Police said Thursday that about 1.3 million people attended rallies, while the Kremlin gave an official count of a mere 700,000.

Deputy Head of the Kremlin Administration Oleg Sysuyev was quoted by Russian media as saying that meant the rest of the 150 million population were opposed to Yeltsin's resignation.

The protests were mostly peaceful, although police detained 62 "drunken loafers" on Moscow's Red Square Wednesday evening after they provoked police, Interfax quoted Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin as saying.

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov praised law-enforcement agencies for their work patrolling the demonstrations, saying strikes had proceeded peacefully all over the country. But he added there were lessons to be learned from the action.

"Most of the protesters were driven by dissatisfaction with their financial position and by the need to take economic measures that might lead the country out of this complicated situation," Interfax quoted him as saying. "Although time is needed to implement all anti-crisis measures, it is our duty to act promptly."