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Tens of Thousands Rally Against Terrorism in Moscow - 2004-09-07

Tens of thousands of people held a rally near Red Square in Moscow to protest against terrorism. The rally was called in the wake of last week's hostage-taking in southern Russia that killed at least 338 people, as well as other incidents that have occurred in Moscow itself.

The people of Moscow are no strangers to the threat of terrorism, having suffered numerous deadly incidents in recent years.

But as with the rest of Russia and the world, the siege at the school in southern Russia had far greater impact because it targeted innocent children.

And so the people of Russia's capital gathered next to St. Basil's Cathedral in the pouring rain to express their sympathy for the victims of the school tragedy.

But they also expressed outrage, holding up large banners reading "All of Russia is against terror," and "They're even killing our children."

There were several speakers, including Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who had just returned from attending some of the hundreds of funerals for the victims in the small town of Beslan. He reminded the crowd of the many terror incidents which have taken place in Moscow itself, including a suicide bombing outside a subway station just a week ago.

The most notorious incident was the seizure of a theater in October 2002, when rebels from breakaway Chechnya held the entire audience for several days, before troops stormed the building, and over 100 hostages died.

The mood of the rally was subdued, with people still in shock over the recent events.

One student named Anastasia expressed her thoughts this way.

"Well, all that stuff that happens, far away, but I feel it, it's in my heart, I don't know how to say it, I just feel it, I came," she said.

One thing missing was any criticism of President Vladimir Putin for the way he and other authorities handled the hostage siege, especially its chaotic climax on Friday.

Many media commentators and some politicians have questioned his overall hard-line policy toward breakaway Chechnya, seen by some as only encouraging more terrorism.