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Moscow gears up for Madonna gig amid tight security

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Madonna will take center stage Tuesday night in Moscow as the Russian capital takes unprecedented security measures for the American pop diva's sole appearance.
MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - Madonna will take center stage Tuesday night in Moscow as the Russian capital takes unprecedented security measures for the American pop diva's sole appearance.

About 50,000 fans of the 48-year-old chart topper are expected to attend her debut gig in Russia after the original date on the controversial Confessions on the Dance Floor show was put one back day following a change of venue and to avoid a clash with the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy in the United States.

But with the capital rocked by a fatal market bombing at the end of August and religious groups criticizing the show for alleged blasphemous connotations, there will be a considerable police presence. A spokesman for the Moscow police said about 7,000 law enforcers would be on duty for the concert with 3,000 of them at the Luzhniki Stadium, where the concert would be held, and nearby areas.

"Moreover, security measures also involve 45 dog handlers with especially trained dogs to find explosives and 45 mounted police officers," the spokesman said. "About 600 OMON [riot police] and 300 police operatives will be in reserve."

In 2003, two suicide bombers killed 17 people at an outdoor rock concert.

The representative said the other officers would provide security for Madonna, who made a fleeting appearance before the press Monday night after arriving at an airport to the west of the capital, from her hotel to the stadium in the southwest of the capital.

Controversy has dogged Madonna's tour in Europe as religious groups condemned a section of the pop star's show that features a song with the singer apparently being crucified on a giant cross studded with small mirrors. Representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Muslim community have advised believers to stay away.

"For an Orthodox believer there is no point of attending her [Madonna's] concerts or helping her propagate her spiritual problems via self-advertisement," Vsevolod Chaplin, head of the Moscow Patriarchy's department for external relations, said in August.

Last week Monday hundreds of Orthodox Christians gathered in central Moscow demanding the cancellation of the Madonna concert. "The pop star calling herself Madonna is abusing the Cross," Valentin Lebedev, head of the Union of Orthodox Citizens, said then.

Vorobyovy Gory (Sparrow Hills) Metro station near the stadium, which was the focal point of the 1980 Olympics, will be closed out of crowd-safety concerns because it is not capable of holding the huge crowds expected.

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