Accessibility links

Breaking News

Russia: Protesters Assail Government During May Day Rallies

Moscow, 1 May 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Russia's May Day rallies turned into anti-government protests today when tens of thousands of demonstrators marched through central Moscow to lambast the government and demand President Boris Yeltsin's resignation. Police estimated that about 25,000 communist supporters carried red flags and slogans demanding Yeltsin's removal.

Later the crowd approved a resolution demanding the firing of Yeltsin because they said he had committed "monstrous" crimes against the country. Such resolutions have no legal status.

In the streets, protesters lashed out at the government for failing to pay wages and pensions that are months overdue.

Earlier, Yeltsin said in a national radio address commemorating May Day that the demonstrations were a sign of democracy and that he had fought for the opposition's right to criticize him.

Communists in and out of power marked May Day, International Labor Day, in celebrations around the world.

In Asia, a region where communism still flourishes alongside some of the world's fastest-growing capitalist economies, Asians marked the day with everything from praise for proletariat heroes to huge labor union-sponsored picnics. In China, as in many communist and non-communist countries around the world, workers had the day off.

In Kazakhstan, several hundred elderly demonstrators, nostalgic for the Soviet past, gathered in a park amid red flags and bunting in the capital, Almaty, to protest against unpaid pensions and wages.

In Kyrgyzstan, about 400 people gathered in the center of the capital, Bishkek, carrying portraits of Lenin and Stalin. They were also protesting falling living standards.

In South Korea, workers and radical students battled riot police in Seoul and the southern city of Taegu as May Day rallies turned into violent anti-government demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Kim Young-Sam.

In Turkey, trade union leaders laid a wreath in Istanbul's main square in memory of 37 people killed at a May Day rally there 20 years ago.

In Belarus, police arrested an opposition leader who tried to turn a pro-government demonstration into a rally against hardline President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Nikolai Statkevich, the leader of the Belarusian Social Democratic Party, was arrested after he persuaded about one-third of the 15,000 pro-Lukashenka demonstrators to join his party's protest.