Saturday, 1 May 2010

Thousands to rally in Moscow for May Day

Tens of thousands of Russian Communists, nationalists and supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party prepared to rally on Saturday across Moscow to mark May Day.

Around 40,000 demonstrators are expected in Moscow despite drizzle and overcast skies, and Russian media reports put the nationwide total at around 1.7 million, from the Far East on the Pacific Ocean to the Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad.

Russia's Communist Party, the country's second biggest party, cherish May 1 -- known as International Workers Day in the Soviet era -- and large crowds of mostly pensioners are expected to hoist red banners and march through the capital.

The Communists, whose leaders avoid harsh criticism of Putin or President Dmitry Medvedev, will begin the rally calling for an immediate end to capitalism near the statue of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin in the city centre.

Former chess master Garry Kasparov, who has become one of the Kremlin's harshest critics and heads a democratic, pro-western opposition movement, has called for a "Day of Wrath".

"The May 1 Day of wrath will be of a non-party, civil nature, and people of various political views can take part," a statement on site www.kasparov.ru said.

Though the Moscow government has allowed Russian nationalists calling for an end to immigration to rally, along with the Communists and two pro-Kremlin parties, Kasparov's party has been banned from protests.

His Other Russia movement relies mainly on street protests -- often broken up by police -- and online campaigning to get its message across.

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