MOSCOW -- Thousands of people jammed into a central Moscow square next to the Kremlin in a show of solidarity for the victims of this week’s deadly terrorist bombing in the St. Petersburg subway.
The April 6 rally was one of dozens of demonstrations being organized by authorities around Russia over the next few days in the aftermath of the blast, which killed 14 and wounded dozens.
Authorities have identified Akbarjon Jalilov, an ethnic Uzbek naturalized Russian citizen who was born in Kyrgyzstan, as the suspect in the April 3 explosion -- the deadliest terrorist attack in St. Petersburg’s history. Jalilov was killed in the explosion.
Law enforcement authorities in Russia and in Kyrgyzstan have rushed to try to figure out what led Jalilov to commit the bombing and whether anyone had assisted him. In a statement on April 6, the national Investigative Committee said eight men -- six in St. Petersburg and two in Moscow -- had been arrested in connection with the bombing. It said security forces had searched a St. Petersburg apartment where the men were living and seized a bomb, firearms, and ammunition.
In Moscow, hundreds of police officers cordoned off Manezh Square where the rally took place, forcing long lines of people holding red carnations to wait to pass through metal detectors.
Young men and women handed out green-and-olive-colored ribbons worn by St. Petersburg residents to commemorate the Siege of Leningrad -- St. Petersburg’s Soviet name -- during World War II.
Others handed out black balloons embossed with a picture of St. Petersburg’s iconic Aleksandr Column and the date of the subway bombing.
Sergei Dorenko, chief editor of the state radio station Govorit Moskva, tried to whip up the crowd with a message of patriotic unity.
"I want to say [the bomber] counted on sowing terror, fear, panic. Instead, he got solidarity and the people have united," Dorenko said. "They have not left one another. The whole city lived like a single organism, like in old times. Mice get scared, rabbits get scared, but citizens do not show fear. This is important. Secondly, the terrorists must pay for this. They will have to pay" for the dead.
"This is our home! This is our home!" he chanted from the stage.
However, his calls prompted little reaction from the crowd of several thousand, mostly older people, but also some students. Many left quickly after the hourlong rally concluded.
In contrast to last month’s opposition-organized anticorruption rallies, which saw a massive, buoyant turnout from young Russians, the atmosphere at the Moscow rally was more subdued. Many people declined to speak to RFE/RL about their reasons for attending.
Opposition groups have accused the authorities of organizing the rallies and paying people to attend in order to distract from the national wave of anticorruption rallies held last month.
Aleksandr Kondrakov, 25, a midlevel manager at an IT company, said he had traveled from St. Petersburg to Moscow for the event to show the terrorists he is not afraid.
"If they wanted to scare us, then they didn’t succeed," he said. "I approve of [President Vladimir] Putin and what he does in general. I’m sure that he’ll find these people and will punish them."
There were few signs or placards at the rally. One man, Aleksandr, held up an anti-immigrant sign that said: "You should have to earn your citizenship!" and that indicated that citizenship should not be given away lightly like a shwarma, a popular street food commonly associated with immigrants from Central Asia or the Caucasus.
He said he was protesting because the man whom police have identified as the main suspect was an ethnic Uzbek born in Kyrgyzstan who was given Russian citizenship.
"In any normal country, you have to wait five years to get citizenship. Here, thanks to a simplified procedure, citizenship is sometimes given out very easily. This boy was just given it," said Aleksandr, who declined to give his surname or his profession. "It turns out you can just hand out citizenship left, right, and center. This nourishes events like [the bombing]. It’s not good and it’s not right."
Not long after, he was confronted by three police officers who asked for his identification documents and then confiscated his placard. They did not detain him.