MOSCOW — After much pawing of the ground and a few angry snorts, the mayor has spoken: There will be no bullfighting in Moscow.
But organizers of what has been billed as Russia's first corrida are taking one last pass at the cape. On Tuesday, they held out the possibility of a lawsuit if Mayor Yuri M. Luzhkov's decision to ban next month's bullfights is not revoked.
Luzhkov's spokesman announced Monday that the two-day spectacle--to have featured, among others, a female Russian bullfighter--was being canceled because "a show of violence is intolerable in any form."
The mayor believes that bullfighting runs counter to Russian tradition, said his spokesman, Sergei Tsoi, who added that Luzhkov considered criticism of the show from the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexi II, in making his decision. Animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot was among foreigners who had protested the event.
Organizers insist that bullfighting is legal here and stress that no animals were to be killed during the performances. The shows are billed as Portuguese bullfighting, which differs from the Spanish version in that the bull is spared in the arena--though usually slaughtered afterward.
Yevgeny Matuzov, spokesman for the Russian Entertainment Academy, the organizer of the extravaganza, said his company hopes Luzhkov's decision will not be the final word.
About half the tickets for two bullfights--scheduled for Sept. 8-9 in the city's Olympics sports complex, which accommodates 35,000 people--have been sold, Matuzov said.
Among the matadors billed is Maria Artamonova, a Russian who organizers say is one of only three female professional bullfighters in the world.
If the shows are canceled, organizers say, they will be out $1.5 million spent on promotion and transporting of bulls to Russia.
"We haven't violated any laws or regulations," Matuzov said. "We are entertaining the public. We are not killing any animals."
The company is "amazed" by Luzhkov's stance and does not believe the mayor has a legal basis for it.
"We tend to believe that what was said is in fact just the private opinion of Mayor Luzhkov," said Matuzov. "That is why the preparation for the show is proceeding in a normal way."
The agency had put up scores of billboards and placards around Moscow advertising the bullfights, but there also has been a noisy groundswell of criticism from environmentalists and animal rights groups. The opposition has even taken on patriotic and spiritual overtones.
Lyubov Novozhilova, chairwoman of the Russian group Activists for Saving Animals, said on TV6 television that holding the event, especially in the face of Alexi II's opposition, would be "an act of ideological sabotage" against Russia.
Alexander Bogomolov of the newspaper Noviye Izvestia, said he found it strange that Going Together, a youth movement created to support the policies of President Vladimir V. Putin, had joined the former Communist youth organization Komsomol in the battle against bullfighting.
Proclaiming the basic compassion and humaneness of the Russian people, Going Together picketed to demand that "foreign slaughterers be prevented from appearing on sacred Moscow soil," he said.
Bogomolov questioned the priorities in light of Russia's ongoing war against separatist rebels in the Caucasus region.
"Going Together prefers not to think how many human lives are written off in Chechnya every day, and they would rather not mention humanism in this connection," he wrote Tuesday.