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1,500 Rally in Moscow to Protest War in Chechnya

<i> From Reuters</i>

Communists carrying aloft portraits of Soviet state founder V. I. Lenin demanded an end to Russian military action in Chechnya on Sunday and branded President Boris N. Yeltsin a criminal.

“This is civil war!” read a banner carried by one of about 1,500 people gathered on Revolution Square opposite the Bolshoi Theater on a chilly afternoon in central Moscow.

“We demand the restoration of the U.S.S.R., a socialist government and a Soviet power,” former top Communist official Oleg S. Shenin told the demonstrators.

“That is the only way to stop the fratricidal war in Chechnya and save the fatherland from breaking up completely.”

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Shenin, former secretary of the Communist Party Central Committee, was one of 12 people put on trial after the failed 1991 coup against Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev. The trial collapsed, and all the defendants have since been freed.

Speakers took turns on the back of a truck festooned with red flags telling the crowd that Yeltsin should be tried for killing soldiers and civilians.

Journalist Iona Andronov, an ardent opponent of Yeltsin, told the crowd that he was prepared to travel to the Chechen capital, Grozny, with prominent Communists to help stop the fighting.

“We are the conscience of the Russian people. Our members of Parliament are dancing, drinking and enjoying themselves while Russian soldiers are lying unburied on Grozny streets,” he said.

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Andronov urged Russian soldiers not to shoot at civilians or shell residential areas. “Refuse to follow your orders! They are anti-constitutional and illegal!” he cried.

Communists have launched a strident campaign against Yeltsin’s decision to dispatch troops to oust Chechen President Dzhokar M. Dudayev.

Liberal reformers have also denounced the military action, leaving radical nationalist Vladimir V. Zhirinovsky as the only major parliamentary leader backing the president.


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