Nearly 200,000 people took part in demonstrations and meetings all over Russia on May 1, according to Interior Ministry estimates. All the rallies passed off peacefully. (Itar-Tass, May 1) In President Boris Yeltsin’s hometown, Yekaterinburg, demonstrators called for state support for domestic manufacturers and the payment of wage arrears, while a small crowd of communists called for the Soviet Union to be restored and Yeltsin to be put on trial. An even smaller group of ten anarchists had their leaflets confiscated by the police. (Radio Russia, May 1)
In Moscow, police said 15,000 demonstrators took part in three demonstrations, though the communist organizers of the largest, outside the Bolshoi Theater, claimed that 40,000 were present. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov addressed the crowd and denounced President Yeltsin for “leading Russia to the edge of the abyss,” only to find himself denounced as “a traitor” by radical left-wing firebrand Viktor Anpilov. Anpilov, leader of the small Working Russia movement, said Zyuganov and his party had betrayed the cause by failing to prevent Sergei Kirienko’s confirmation as prime minister.
There is widespread speculation that the long-anticipated split in the Communist Party will soon take place. The biggest threat may come from the movement in support of the army, led by retired General Lev Rokhlin. Rokhlin took part in Friday’s demonstration alongside Zyuganov, and told the crowd that his movement was conducting “large-scale explanatory work” with army servicemen. “Military men are becoming more and more aware that the law is being systematically broken when it comes to them, and this means they have the right to resist,” Rokhlin declared. (Ekho Moskvy, May 1) The day before, it was revealed that Russia’s newly appointed justice minister had interviewed Rokhlin in connection with reports that members of Rokhlin’s movement tried to incite officers from the Volgograd garrison to take action in defense of their rights. Rokhlin admitted in a television interview that his supporters had distributed leaflets at the garrison, but said this was a legal activity and that the leaflets did not call for anticonstitutional action. (TV6, April 30)
RUSSIA AT CENTER OF U.S. NATO DEBATE.