Russian Bands Raise Belgrade's Spirits

Russian rock and pop groups are doing their part to keep up the spirits of their "Serb brothers" in Belgrade.

Na-Na, the ultimate Russian boys band, played for 40 minutes Thursday on the Yugoslav capital's main square, where live concerts have been held throughout the week.

They were on their way back to Russia on Friday, but the band DDT plans to leave Saturday for Belgrade, and Chaif also hopes to get there in time for a concert next Sunday on Orthodox Easter.

"The atmosphere is tense but despite the sirens, there is a sense of unity," Pavel Sokolov, a Na-Na member, said by telephone from the Hungarian border. The pop musicians, traveling as part of an official State Duma delegation, drove to Hungary, from where they were to fly back to Moscow on Saturday.

During their two-day stay, Na-Na visited a bomb shelter. "We hugged and kissed and talked with people," Sokolov said. "We could see how it rose their spirits."

On the way to Belgrade, the group saw a bridge in the city of Novi Sad blown to pieces by NATO just as they were about to cross, he said. The destruction of the bridge over the Danube blocked international shipping on the river.

"It was a bit scary ... but we felt an adrenaline rush more because we were standing up for our Serb brothers than out of fear," the singer said.

Sokolov said the group brings good luck. "Whenever we go to a war zone, the situation improves," he said.

He said Russian troops were withdrawn from East Germany right after Na-Na's visit and the bloody conflicts in Georgia and Chechnya started to cool down after their concerts there.

DDT, an old-time rock group from St. Petersburg, and Chaif also performed for Russian soldiers during the fighting in Tajikistan and Chechnya.

"It's our good old tradition," said Maxim Lande, the director of DDT. "DDT's place is where people suffer."

The group's leader, Yury Shevchuk, is a prominent rocker and author of a pacifist song "Don't You Shoot!"

Chaif manager Dmitry Groisman said his musicians have accepted an invitation from ORT producer Konstantin Ernst and Yury Lyubimov, chairman of the board of the VID television production company, to perform in Belgrade and will take off as soon as their visas are ready. "It's a chance to express our civil position," he said. "We used to think everything Americans did had a certain logic. This time we don't see it."

Another rock band, Alisa, canceled its U.S. trip in protest against the NATO bombings and appealed to its fans through the Internet to support its action.