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Putin Denounces Racism at Victory Day Parade


President Vladimir Putin used the occasion of Russia's World War II Victory Day holiday to warn extremists that ethnic hatred will not be tolerated in Russia.

Each year on May 9 Russia and other former Soviet republics pause to remember the horrors they endured during what is still called the Great Patriotic War against Nazi Germany.

The Soviet death toll in the war was around 25 million, far more than any other of the countries that were pulled into the conflict.

The central event in Russia is a parade on Red Square complete with marching bands and soldiers who belong to the same units that fought in the war.

As he does every year, President Vladimir Putin warmly greeted the aging veterans who, as he put, sacrificed so much to defeat fascism.

But this year he added a new twist, in addressing the growing menace posed by neo-Nazi and extremist groups.

He warned that those who sow ethnic hatred, extremism and xenophobic ideas are leading the world to a dead end.

Mr. Putin did not refer specifically to Russia. But his comments come amid a rising tide of extremist violence by groups that often use the Nazi salute and even Swastikas.

Scores of dark-skinned foreigners or non-Slavic Russians have been killed or injured in recent years by skinheads or other extremists.

Human rights groups say the authorities are doing little to deal with the problem, often ascribing racist crimes to hooliganism, which carries a much lower sentence.

The Victory Day speech comes just one day before Mr. Putin is due to deliver his annual state of the nation speech, which is expected to focus on foreign policy issues.

He is also likely to comment on the issue of energy security, which he has said is the focus of Russia's yearlong leadership of the G-8 group of major industrial nations.

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