Hundreds of ultra-nationalists and far-right demonstrators rallied in the Russian capital Saturday, despite a ban on such gatherings, and dozens of protesters were arrested. Although organizers predicted a much higher turnout, a presence of some 6,500 police officers seems to have deterred many from participating.
Various nationalist groups participated in the march, including moderate nationalists, neo-Nazis and religious right groups. All of them, however, were protesting immigration from the Caucusus and Central Asian countries.
Dmitry Rogozin, nationalist politician and rally organizer, says people were protesting illegal immigration, criminality and what he called "aggressive separatism."
Moscow's mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, banned the Russian March after last year's demonstration attracted thousands of ultra-nationalists, who carried swastikas and Nazi symbols and shouted far-right slogans.
Similar rallies were also expected to take place in several other Russian cities. In Russia's second largest city of St. Petersburg, police broke up a fight between several hundred nationalists and anti-fascists. Dozens of ultra-nationalists were also detained.
Meanwhile, liberal politicians and rights groups held a counter-rally in the center of Moscow to protest the rise of xenophobia in Russia.
Russia has seen an alarming rise in hate crimes, including multiple killings and violent attacks against foreigners, Jews and immigrations from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Human rights activists say lack of action by the authorities is to blame.