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    Russian military music festival protests British pipers' pullout

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    MOSCOW, September 12 (RIA Novosti) - The organizers of a military music festival in Moscow sent an open letter Friday to the British prime minister expressing disappointment over the withdrawal of British bagpipers, which forced the cancellation of the event.

    The Kremlin Zorya festival, this year marking the 325th anniversary of the Russian Imperial Guards, was canceled Monday after the British Foreign Office decided September 5 that 40 bagpipers from the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers should not attend.

    The move was linked to Russia's actions over Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow recognized as independent states in late August, two weeks after a brief war sparked by Tbilisi's attack on South Ossetia.

    The festival was due to take place Thursday through Sunday in central Moscow, with bands from Britain, Austria, Ireland, and Canada.

    In the letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Russian director of the Kremlin Zorya foundation dismissed the move as purely political, saying: "Russia and Britain often differ in their approach to many developments in the world or bilateral relations, but one would not desire it to have a negative effect on our cultural contacts."

    Vitaly Mironov said the British bagpipers became "one of the most spectacular acts of the show" last year, when the festival took place for the first time on Red Square.

    "No doubt, this contributed to greater appreciation of Britain, its people and culture, by millions of citizens of Russia and other countries who had the chance to attend the festival personally or see it on television," he said in the letter.

    Mironov said he hoped the festival, which has been postponed until May 2009, would again see "the outstanding representatives of British military and musical culture."

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