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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Bails Out Madonna Concert

At times it seems that nothing gets done in Russia without direct intervention from the Kremlin. On Tuesday, Madonna's upcoming Moscow concert proved to be no exception.

After weeks of confusion and backroom wrangling, it emerged Tuesday that the pop diva's show would most likely be held Sept. 12 at Luzhniki stadium.

But when it came time to brief the press, the private management company hired to arrange the concert and the official spokesman for the Russian leg of Madonna's "Confessions" tour were nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the announcement was made by Vladimir Kiselyov, general director of a state-owned management company called Kreml, or Kremlin, which is part of the Presidential Property Department.

Kiselyov's announcement raised as many questions as it answered, however.

For starters, it became clear later Tuesday that the new venue and date for the concert were not yet set in stone.

First Deputy Mayor Lyudmila Shevtsova told Interfax that officials from City Hall, the police department and the Emergency Situations Ministry had met with Kiselyov during the day to to iron out the details and sign a deal with Luzhniki as soon as possible.

The concert was originally scheduled for Sept. 11 on a hill near Moscow State University. All 36,000 tickets were sold in just four days, Aug. 8-11, a record for concerts in Russia.

Now all those tickets will have to be exchanged -- in person.

Kiselyov said tickets could only be swapped through Ticketpro, the company contracted to sell the tickets in the first place. He added that the details of the ticket exchange had to be worked out. "But this service will have to be provided right up to the last minute," he said.

When contacted Tuesday, Ticketpro and 19-00.ru, a partner ticket web site, said they were working on a procedure for the swap.

Kiselyov also said that an additional 16,000 tickets would be sold for the concert at Luzhniki. The stadium can hold 52,000 spectators for such concerts, he said.

Kiselyov said Tuesday that Luzhniki had always been the organizers' first choice for Madonna's concert. They chose an alternative because there was a possibility that the Spartak football team might be playing an important Champions League match in the stadium on Sept. 11.

When it was announced that Spartak would play its match in Germany on Sept. 12, and that Luzhniki was free, concert organizers decided to move the show, Kiselyov said.

As for the change of date, Kiselyov explained that the organizers belatedly realized it would be "unethical" to hold a concert on Sept. 11, the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. He thanked journalists for pointing this out to the organizers.

Kiselyov did not say, however, who would pick up what seems certain to be an enormous tab for the ticket exchange and new advertising to make sure that concert-goers turn up on the right day and at the right place.

A source within Kreml, who requested anonymity, suggested the state-owned company would absorb the additional costs.

The Madonna saga began earlier this summer. Madonna's management agency, U.S.-based Live Nation, hired St. Petersburg event management company NCA to arrange the Moscow show, which is sandwiched between the singer's concerts in Western Europe and Japan.

Live Nation and NCA then hired Anton Atrashkin on a two-month contract to be the spokesman for the concert. Atrashkin seems to have been quickly cut out of the loop.

City security officials began raising concerns about the Vorobyovy Gory site near Moscow State University early last week. They said repeatedly that they could not provide security for the 250,000 people expected to attend the concert.

Where they got that figure remains unclear. Kiselyov dismissed the figure Tuesday and blasted city officials for speculating.

City Hall's chief security liaison, Nikolai Kulikov, proceeded to suggest holding the concert at an airfield in Tushino, in northern Moscow, where 13 people were killed in July 2003 in a suicide bomb attack linked to Chechen terrorists.

Atrashkin said one week ago that he had "heard nothing about a possible change of venue." On Tuesday, the official concert spokesman said he knew nothing more about the reasons for the change of date and venue than reporters, though he called the change "unfortunate."

NCA president Mikhail Shurygin could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

The Madonna concert is hardly the first organizational fiasco the city has seen. During City Day celebrations in 1997, for example, police estimated that 3.5 million people turned out to watch Jean-Michel Jarre's laser show -- also at Moscow State University. People blocked traffic on all streets within kilometers of the area. The crowd stormed public transport, and some people even rode on the roofs of trolleybuses.

Most recently, a concert by Eric Clapton was canceled abruptly in July after authorities withdrew permission to hold it on Red Square, as scheduled, the musician's publicist said at the time.

The organizer of the aborted Clapton concert was Kreml, which was founded in 1999 to arrange cultural and entertainment events, primarily in the Kremlin and on Red Square, according to the mission statement on the company's web site.

In the past, Kreml has arranged everything from concerts for opera singers Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo to a 2002 exhibition tennis match between Boris Becker and Pat Cash.

The involvement of Kreml, and therefore of the Presidential Property Fund, in the Madonna concert could have political repercussions as well, given that the Orthodox Church has taken a strong stand against the show.

Earlier this month, Father Vsevold Chaplin, a church spokesman, urged believers not to attend.

"For an Orthodox believer there is no point of attending [Madonna's] concerts or helping her propagate her spiritual problems via self-advertisement," he said.

On Monday, 350 teachers at a church school in the Sverdlovsk region sent an open letter to the Prosecutor General's Office, Mayor Yury Luzhkov and the Moscow city government asking the authorities to ban the controversial "Crucifixion" number in Madonna's show, which has also generated protests in Europe.