MOSCOW – Making Nazi-like salutes, thousands of Russian ultra-nationalists have marched in Moscow against Muslim migrants and soaring numbers of foreigners in the country, seeing them as a threat to the Russian identity.
"Why are there foreigners in our cities? This is our home," Nadezhda, a young woman on the march was quoted by Agence France Presse (AFP) on Monday, November 4.
“We are all Russians here. Kids have nothing to be afraid of," another with a shaved head and a young child on his shoulders added.
Marching on Monday across a working-class neighborhood on the outskirts of Moscow, some 10,000 demonstrators carried black, yellow and white Russian imperial flags.
"Today, a mosque -- tomorrow, jihad", claimed a statement on banner carried by youth during the march.
Protesters have also chanted slogans like 'White Power' and 'Russia for the Russians', as one group held a banner that read "Young People Against Tolerance."
Targeting Muslims, protesters intentionally attacked residents with both Caucasian and central Asian features by breaking their cars windows.
Consequently, police had arrested about 30 protesters after showing banned Nazi symbols and covering their faces with masks.
The march coincided with a national holiday known as 'Unity Day' which marks the expulsion of Poles from Moscow in 1612, the event marked by Russian President Vladimir Putin since 2005.
Muscovites used to celebrate Unity day by holding the annual 'Russian March', which is known for featuring anti-minorities activities.
Recently, a growing ethnical tension has been notably reported in Moscow where Central Asia and or Caucasus migrants faced various forms of discrimination.
Three weeks ago, thousands took to the streets to protest the murder of a Muscovite young man.
Meanwhile, police arrested a suspect with Azerbaijani roots and rounded up about 1,000 migrants.
Justifying hate speech and provocative marches, Russian nationalists claim that their moves are inspired by their will to preserve the Russian identity.
"Moscow has only just woken up, and Russians have only just started to recognize their identity," Alexander Belov, one of the Moscow rally's organizers, was quoted by Reuters.
"With every day Russian nationalists are gaining more and more support across the country," Belov said.
The migration of Muslim laborers has been a major theme of Moscow mayoral elections in September that Putin ally Sergei Sobyanin won over opposition leader Alexei Navalny; a nationalist who has attended previous "Russian March" rallies.
Navalny said he still believed in the need to rid Moscow of migrants but would not be joining Monday's demonstration.
"I still support the Russian March as an idea and as an event," Navalny wrote on his blog.
"But today, my participation in the Russian March would turn into a hellish comedy," Navalny said in reference to the growing media attention he has been gaining both in Russia and abroad.
In a bid to protect its citizens, US embassy urged Americans to be 'cautious' of throughout Russian March day.
"Extreme violence has been witnessed during previous nationalist protests, and spontaneous demonstrations of support may appear anywhere throughout the city, at any time of the day," the US embassy said in a special security message cited by AFP.
Islam is Russia's second-largest religion representing roughly 15 percent of its 145 million predominantly Orthodox population.
The Russian Federation is home to some 23 million Muslims in the north of the Caucasus and southern republics of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.
Last June, Moscow police have detained more than 300 worshippers after rounding them up during prayer at a Muslim prayer room in the Russian capital.
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