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Russia: Moscow Demonstrators Converging Near Red Square

Moscow, 7 October 1998 (RFE/RL) - Demonstrators in central Moscow who are calling for unpaid wage and pension payments, as well as President Boris Yeltsin's resignation, have reached their rallying point near St. Basil's Cathedral on Red Square.

The private NTV reported about 50,000 people in the square with more arriving after a protest march that started earlier in the afternoon. RFE/RL's correspondent in Moscow reports that unlike previous years, when mostly elderly pensioners took part in similar demonstrations, today's crowd is of mixed ages.

Independent Trade Union leader Mikhail Shmakov told the crowd that "workers are ready for tough actions" and intend to "choose a new president" who will represent the demonstrators. The Moscow rally is scheduled to continue into Wednesday evening.

France's AFP news agency reported small scuffles between marchers and some of an estimated 20,000 security troops keeping order in Moscow. RFE/RL's correspondent described the march as calm with nearby shops remaining open. NTV reports that most police in the area are not wearing uniforms.

Earlier today, local authorities and regional governors led marches in Russia's Far East and in Siberia. Estimates by the justice and interior ministries differ on the turnout in the Far East.