Nationalists Hold Annual Russian March
- By Alexander Bratersky
- Nov. 06 2012 00:00
- Last edited 16:45
Nationalists walked along aádowntown embankment Sunday shouting anti-Kremlin slogans ináthe annual Russian March, which was beset byálow turnout andáoccasionally dangerous antics, including anáattempt toáshoot atáa police helicopter with aáflare gun.
The march, which took place on the National Unity Day holiday, saw some 6,000 people representing various nationalist groups, fromámoderate toáfar-right, walk along theáMoscow River across fromáthe Kremlin waving yellow-black-and-white imperial flags. Theáevent concluded with aárally near theáCentral House ofáArtists.
Police detained aágroup ofárally participants who tried toáfireáa flare gun atáa helicopter, news agency RBC reported, citing police. About 25 others wearing black overcoats with swastikas were arrested near metro Tretyakovskaya, near theámarch's starting point, police said ináa statement.
Alexander Belov, theáleader ofáthe banned Movement Against Illegal Immigration, was met byáapplause when he called President Vladimir Putin aná"enemy" atáthe rally.
"He will continue toádrink our blood before he is thrown out ofáthe Kremlin," Belov said.
Putin created National Unity Day in 2005, and it replaces commemorations of the Bolshevik Revolution. The holiday now marks a 1612 uprising against Polish invaders that led to their expulsion from the country.
On Sunday, Putin laid flowers at the monument to militia head Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky, the leaders of that uprising. The Associated Press reportedáSundayáthatáPutin walked slowly but without assistance. Recent media reports have speculated that he has been suffering from debilitating back pain.
Standing alongside Putin were leaders of the biggest religious faiths in the nation — Russian Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim and Buddhist, the presidential press service said.
Nationalist leaders who attended Sunday's march, including Belov, have also participated ináopposition rallies, aáfact that has unsettled some human rights activists andámembers ofáthe protest movement.
Last year's Russian March was attended byáopposition leader Alexei Navalny, who addressed theácrowd onástage. Navalny is known foráhis "Stop Feeding theáCaucasus" slogan, aimed atáhalting major federal subsidies toáthe North Caucasus republics.
Navalny was not seen ináthe crowd atáthis year's event andádid not speak atáthe rally.
Sunday marked theáfirst time theáannual Russian March was held inácentral Moscow andánot ináLyublino, aáworking-class neighborhood ináthe capital's southeastern outskirts.
"For us, it was ofáfundamental importance toáget out ofáthe captivity ofáthe bedroom districts," Ivan Mironov, deputy head ofáSergei Baburin's All-Russia Union, told website Nakanune.ru onáFriday.
But one Russian nationalist who gave his name only as Andrei said he was disappointed byáthe march because ofáthe low attendance. As many as 10,000 people have attended past events, while this year's drew about 6,000 participants,ápolice said.
"The Russian people are ináa state ofádormancy. I believe it is because we still have not repented forákilling theátsar," he said, referring toáthe killing ofáRussia's last tsar, Nicholas II, iná1918 byáthe Bolsheviks.
Anti-immigrant sentiments were strong among theáyoung participants ofáthe rally, some ofáwhom made Nazi-style salutes as they stood with their shoulders covered byáan imperial flag.
"We are against theánon-Russians who are occupying Moscow," said one ofáthe teenagers, who said he was aámember ofáa fan club foráthe Avangard football club. There are large numbers ofánationalists among young Russian football fans.
"We can get them away only with aáwhite terror," said another teenager standing nearby.
Theápresence ofáthe far-right groups atáthe rally was noted with distaste byáleaders ofáthe more moderate nationalist parties, whose members appeared toádistance themselves fromásuch groups.
"Those youngsters don't understand anything, andáthey are led byáleaders who don't explain anything toáthem," said Yevgeny Vasilyev, aámember ofáthe Forgotten Regiment organization ofáformer paratroopers.
"People are fed up with hearing about theáunification ofáthe Russian race. They want toáhear about theáunification ofáevery Russian against theáregime," Vasilyev said.
According toáa recent Levada Center poll, 13 percent ofáMuscovites said they would support aánationalist party ináMoscow City Duma elections scheduled forá2014.
Theámajority ofárespondents said theámain reason forásupporting such aáparty was dislike ofáuncontrolled migration fromáCentral Asia andáthe Caucasus toáthe capital.
An opposition activist who observed the march complained that police did not react to protesters wearing surgical masks despite a ban on wearing masks of any kind at rallies. The ban has led to the detention of demonstrators at recent opposition rallies.
"Half of the participants were wearing masks! This is a kingdom of double standards. I feel sick," journalist and social activist Karina Melitonyan wrote on her Facebook page Sunday.
Reports ofáa massive fight atáa metro station after theámarch between nationalists andáso-called anti-fascists, who were holding aárally ofátheir own Sunday, were denied byácity police. Aáfight with five participants occurred atámetro station Dostoyevskaya, police said, Interfax reported.