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Small Crowd Gives Jackson an Enthusiastic Welcome to Moscow


MOSCOW — A Thriller it was not.

Two hours late, Michael Jackson landed here Sunday night to a frenzied but pint-sized welcome.

About 300 Russian fans, most of them teen-age girls, turned out at the airport to greet the pop superstar who, clad in a black floppy hat and sunglasses, wearily and slowly descended the steps from his personal jetliner.

"Now I can die happy. I saw him; I saw Michael," art school student Tatyana Glutskikh, 17, said in delight.

Despite the modest welcome, the arrival was the top story on television's 11 p.m. news here, where rock music was once regarded as a vile bourgeois influence.

Jackson, 35, who resumes his tour with a concert here Wednesday, got into a bulletproof Zil limousine--one of the same cars that once ferried around the cream of the Kremlin.

His motorcade sped by screaming fans who had waited in the evening chill, brandishing signs with slogans such as "Siberia loves you, Michael!"

Moscow schoolgirl Marianna Shevchenko, 13, held a portrait of the singer and leaped to his defense when asked about accusations of child abuse made by a Los Angeles boy her age.

"My love and respect for Michael Jackson are boundless. I don't believe any of these dirty lies that are being circulated about him," she said.

A larger crowd was waiting at the Metropole Hotel, where the Jackson entourage is staying. But it was clear that so far, the tour and its star performer have not aroused the vast interest in Russia that they kindled in other countries.

On Sunday, in an apparent gambit to boost the airport crowd, concert organizers and promoters announced on radio and TV that they would hand out 500 free tickets at the airport.

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