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Russia's Independence Day Dominated by Election Campaigning

Moscow, June 12 (RFE/RL) -- Political and cultural rallies are taking place today in Moscow and other Russian cities to celebrate the country's Independence Day.

The celebrations, coming four days before Russia's presidential elections, are being dominated by campaigning in support of and against incumbent President Boris Yeltsin.

June 12 was declared a national holiday in 1992, to honor independence from the Soviet Union. It marks the Russian parliament's declaration of sovereignty in June 1990, and the adoption on June 12, 1991, of the Russian constitution and Yeltsin's election as the country's first popularly elected president.

Several thousand supporters of Ultranationalist presidential candidate Vladimir Zhirinovsky marched down a main street toward Red Square, accompanied by a dancing bear, people in folk costumes, and vans blowing horns.

Some 1,500 communist supporters held a rally at Lubyanka Square in front of the old KGB headquarters. Some of the mainly eldery protesters held red flags, while others sold books on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Communist and nationalists have held protest rallies on Independence Day in the past, against the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Meanwhile, Yeltsin's supporters were scheduled to march through the capital and gather at Red Square for a concert and rally. Organizers said that Yeltsin, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov are expected to attend.