MOSCOW — Tens of thousands of Russians have gathered in rallies across the country to express patriotic unity and support for Russian athletes in the upcoming Winter Olympics.
Police said 60,000 people attended Saturday’s rally at Moscow’s Vasilyevsky Spusk, an area adjacent to Red Square. Similar gatherings of hundreds or thousands were held in other cities.
The rallies were organized by the government-initiated Civic Chamber and marked the 75th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi forces in the Battle of Stalingrad, a key World War II turning-point and a wellspring of national pride.
The gatherings also come amid resentment of Russian athletes being required to compete in IOC-imposed neutral uniforms in the Pyeongchang Olympics after doping scandals. Some participants in the Moscow rally held signs reading “Athletes without a flag — athletes without a motherland.”