World Bulletin / News Desk
Thousands of nationalists marched through the Russian capital Sunday, chanting slogans including "Moscow is a Russian city" to express their resentment of dark-complexioned migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia.
The march took place on Unity Day, a national holiday established in 2005 to replace commemorations of Bolshevik Revolution.
Nationalists accuse the Kremlin of lavishing privileges on migrants and minorities while ignoring ethnic Russians, and object to government subsidies to the restive, mostly Muslim Caucasus republics.
The marchers, mainly young men with closely cropped hair in black leather jackets, shouted "Russia without Putin" and anti-immigrant slogans, carrying Russian Orthodox icons, waving imperial flags and chanting "Russia for Russians".
Police said 6,000 people turned out under grey skies for Sunday's far-right rally, which was given official permission for the first time to march through the heart of Moscow.
Many expressed hostility to migrants from Russia's own mainly Muslim southern regions and other parts of the former Soviet Union, saying Russia should tighten its visa requirements and bolster domestic restrictions on internal migration.
"All the jobs go to newcomers, that's why I think the aim of this march is to get Russian jobs to Russians," Igor, a protester who refused to give his last name and hid his face behind a medical mask, told Reuters.
Sunday's march was mostly calm although some protesters made Nazi-style salutes and set off smoke bombs. Police said 25 were detained for wearing swastika arm-bands and trenchcoats.
Others had red, black and yellow pre-revolutionary flags and some marched behind large icons.
Moscow mayor's office approved the march despite an open letter on Friday by an advocacy group for migrants' rights calling for the rally to be banned.
"We have more than once seen cases of mass beatings and even the murder of foreign citizens on this day," the head of the Federation of Russian Migrants, Mohammad Amin Madzhumder, wrote.
"The March may deal a compromising blow to Moscow's image as welcoming, multi-ethnic city."
Outside the capital, police said they detained 90 people who attempted to hold an unsanctioned rally in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, 50 in the central Russian city of Kazan and 40 in Nizhny Novogorod.
Survey's have indicated that nearly half of Russians resent Caucasian and Central Asian immigrants and migrants, and such sentiments often overlap with the opposition movement that rose up dramatically last December in the wake of parliamentary elections tainted by allegations of widespread fraud.
One of the movement's most prominent figures, anti-corruption activist Alexei Navalny, has called on the Kremlin to "stop feeding the Caucasus," particularly Chechnya.
For much of his first two presidential terms in 2000-2008, Vladimir Putin cultivated nationalist sentiment. But by the end of his second term, racist violence had skyrocketed. More than 100 immigrants were murdered yearly from 2007 to 2009, according to the Sova Center, which monitors far-right groups.
A crackdown began in 2010 when thousands of nationalist soccer hooligans clashed with riot police outside the Kremlin. Convictions for violent hate crimes have risen sharply since then while the rate of racist murders has halved, according to Sova.
The most prominent nationalist groups, including the Slavic Union and the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, were banned for extremism, although their leaders have started other groups. Some nationalist leaders have denounced violence.Last Mod: 04 Kasım 2012, 17:07