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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Communists Mark May Day With Rally




Thousands of trade unionists and communists marched through a sunny Moscow to mark May Day with protests and warnings for the new Russian government formed only this week.


"This is a temporary team that sooner or later will depart, just as the slushy spring snow disappears from the fields of Russia," Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said Friday as he led a march of some 30,000 followers and sympathizers.


"We will form a government of national trust and lead the country out of crisis," he told a mainly elderly throng gathered under red banners on Teatralnaya Ploshchad by a statue of Karl Marx.


The crowd waved a sea of red banners bearing slogans like "Down with the Anti-people Regime!" Some carried posters of dictator Josef Stalin. For many, the prevailing mood was one of nostalgia for the grand May Day pageants of Soviet times.


"If the government tries to get by just on promises it won't last a hundred days," the head of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Mikhail Shmakov, told a separate rally of 20,000.


"We have a hold on the government because the workers are armed with a powerful weapon -- strike action," Shmakov said.


The 50,000 who gathered in Moscow and 15,000 who marched in St Petersburg, cradle of the Bolshevik Revolution, were a far cry from the millions who thronged the cities on May Day in Soviet times to mark one of the great festivals of socialism.


Elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, turnout at May Day parades was patchy.


Just 5,000 gathered in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, to listen to leftist leaders celebrating victory in the March 29 parliamentary election that has left President Leonid Kuchma facing a hostile, left-dominated legislature.


"Long live Soviet power and socialism! This must be the workers' slogan today," Ukrainian Communist Party leader Petro Simonenko proclaimed.


"We have to fight against the capitalist way of life, imposed upon our people," he added.


The figures were well below the expectations of organizers, and many Ukrainians, it seemed, preferred to enjoy their four-day weekend away from politics.


However, police reported attendance of 130,000 marchers at 273 sites across the country Friday, with the largest rallies held in Kirovograd, Mykolayiv and Simferopol, the capital of mostly Russian-speaking Crimea, Interfax reported.


Just a few hundred gathered in drizzle in Central Asia's commercial hub, Almaty in Kazakhstan.


Most of the young munched kebabs and hotdogs, waiting for a parade in the former Lenin Square, while a handful of veterans and pensioners stood apart, clutching a single postcard-sized May Day flag near the place where Lenin's statue once stood, before it was exiled to a spot in the suburbs.


"It is supposed to be a happy day," said 61-year-old Maria Vasiliyevna, wearing bright red lipstick and a Veteran of Labor medal. "Yet what happiness is there? We're divided in two -- the old and the young."