MOSCOW (AP) _ It came as a surprise to most people, but Sunday was Mother's Day in Russia.

The new holiday was created earlier this year by President Boris Yeltsin. But it was preceded by absolutely no fanfare or commercial hoopla, and many people only learned about it Sunday when government officials were quoted on radio and television hailing the holiday.

Deputy Prime Minister Valentina Matviyenko, the highest-ranking woman in the Russian government, used the holiday to call for improved government support for women.

Russia already has a holiday honoring women. Every March 8, sons, husbands and lovers buy flowers for the significant women in their lives to mark International Women's Day.

Then, many women grumble, the men go back to taking women for granted for another year.