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Russia: Protesters Take To The Streets

Moscow, 7 October 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Demonstrators in central Moscow have started a protest march calling for payment of unpaid wages and pensions, as well as for the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin.

RFE/RL's correspondent in Moscow reports that trade union leaders have predicted up to 150,000 people will take part in the protest, which is part of a nationwide demonstration day called by communist and trade union leaders.

The two hour Moscow march, which started shortly after 1400 hours (local time, 1200 Prague time), is expected to converge near St Basil's Cathedral on Red Square for a rally. The interior ministry says rallies earlier today in the Far East gathered only one-third as many people as organizers had predicted.

Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed led a protest march in his region's capital calling for Yeltsin's resignation. In Kamchatka, trade union leader Andrei Zimin told Interfax that about 4,000 people rallied at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. Interfax quotes police estimates of 5,000 people at a rally in Kemerovo, the capital of Siberia's Kuzbass coal mining region. Thousands also were reported at protests in Vladivostock, Khabarovsk, Magadan and the island of Sakhalin.

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov yesterday pledged that Russians will receive unpaid wages and pensions as part of new anti-crisis measures. But he said his stabilization plan depends on whether Moscow can get more aid from international lenders.

Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov is in Washington trying to persuade international lenders to release at least part of a suspended $22.6 billion loan package. The Kremlin is faced with a huge deficit for the fourth quarter of this year.

Interior and Justice Ministries' Data Differ On Protesters

Moscow -- Estimates given by different Russian authorities on the turnout of protesters in the Far East and part of Siberia appear to differ slightly. Russia's Justice ministry, quoted by the Interfax news agency, says some 2.5 million people took to the streets to protest back wages and demand the resignation of President Boris Yeltsin. Meanwhile, the interior ministry said earlier that rallies in the Far East have been only one third as large as organizers had predicted. It said some 61,000 people took part in rallies across the Far east and part of Siberia today. Both ministries said that no violent acts were reported during the demonstrations.

Novosibirsk Picture

Novosibirsk -- A Russian service correspondent in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk says that at last 10,000 people took part in a protest rally in the central Lenin Square today. Demonstrators carried banners and chanted radical slogans, mainly against president Boris Yeltsin. Social demands appeared to remain in the shadow. Speeches focused on Moscow authorities, but spared local leaders, who at the eve of the protest day had already declared they supported the demonstrators. Our correspondent reports that trade union activists demanded early parliamentary, as well as presidential elections.

Irkutsk Picture

Irkutsk -- A Russian service correspondent in the Siberian city of Irkutsk says rallies organized by trade unions and by the Communist Party took place separately. At least 1,000 people, carrying red flags and portraits of Soviet leader Josef Stalin attended the communist demonstration. Irkutsk governor Boris Govorin was one of the few governors who failed to support the new cabinet of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in his speech. He supported instead the economic course of former prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

Voronezh Picture

Voronezh -- The main roads in the Central Russian city of Voronezh were closed to motorists this morning, ahead of protest rallies. A Russian service correspondent reports that according to the organizers of the demonstrations, some 30,000 people took part. According to police estimates, no more than 15,000 people took to the streets. Our correspondent also reports that some schools were closed and 1,000 industries were on strike during the rallies. 300 of them said workers would strike all day. Demonstrators called for President Boris Yeltsin's resignations and for the payment of wages and pensions.