Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 60

A rowdy demonstration was held outside the U.S. embassy in Moscow yesterday, with protesters–mostly young people, many of them fans of Russia’s Spartak and TsSKA football [NOTE: soccer] teams–throwing eggs, beer bottles and containers filled with ink at the building. Demonstrators shouted slogans or carried signs saying such things as “America-Terrorist” and “NATO–Hands off Serbia,” along with other expressions which are not repeatable. Two policemen were injured by flying objects, and the crowd, which peaked at an estimated 1,500 people, was eventually dispersed last night by riot police. By late in the evening, police outnumbered demonstrators. Uniformed law enforcement personnel were heavily deployed outside the embassy today.

The Moscow offices of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s ultra-nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) became a recruiting center for volunteers who want to fight on the side of the Serbs. One newspaper quoted LDPR officials as saying that twenty-five men signed up yesterday and more than 2,700 had called asking how they could do so. The Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and other leftist and nationalist parties have also announced that they are forming volunteer units (Moscow Times, March 26). KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov, who also heads the Popular Patriotic Union of Russia, the umbrella group of the “national-patriotic” opposition, will lead a demonstration outside the U.S. embassy tomorrow (March 27).

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, in a television interview yesterday, said that Russia does not intend “to sever its relations” with other countries over the NATO attacks, but added that “irreversible changes may begin to take shape” in Russia’s relations with NATO member-countries if the attacks continue. Primakov also said Russia might pull out of the international sanctions regime against Yugoslavia: “I think that everything will depend on developments, I cannot rule out anything,” he said (NTV, March 25).

Yet while the NATO military operations are overwhelmingly unpopular in Russia, by no means everyone supports Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky, for instance, said in an interview yesterday that Russia should not be ” directly dragged into the war” in Yugoslavia, and criticized the declarations of various politicians, particularly Zyuganov, calling for the delivery of weapons and sending of volunteers to the Serbs. Yavlinsky said such proposals “are a road to direct, headlong collision with NATO, consequently, a road to war,” and that “Russian soldiers should under no circumstances die in Yugoslavia, defending the mistakes of Yugoslav politicians and Yugoslav separatists.” Yavlinsky added that he was “unpleasantly surprised” that Primakov had not distanced himself from the positions of Zyuganov and other hardliners vis-a-vis the Balkans conflict (Russian agencies, March 25).