Moscow: Several thousand people rallied in central Moscow on Sunday to protest against a wave of ethnic violence that shook the Russian capital this month following the deadly shooting of a football supporter.
The demonstrators chanted "Russia is open to everyone" and held up signs reading "Russia without fascism, Russia without Nazism" during the sanctioned gathering on Pushkin Square, just a few blocks from the Kremlin.
A reporter said about 2,500 people had gathered at the rally, which was attended by opposition leader Vladimir Ryzhkov and liberal Kirov region governor Nikita Belykh, in one of the largest such gatherings in months.
"I think that the Moscow unrest has been caused by all the rot that has accumulated in our society and which is only now rising to the top," the RBC Daily website quoted popular radio personality and columnist Viktor Shenderovich as telling the crowd.
The December 04 shooting of a Moscow football fan by a Muslim suspect has sparked a wave of ethnic disturbances in the Russian capital, with groups of ultra-nationalists holding several large rallies throughout the city.
Police said that racism was the probable cause of a spate of recent deadly attacks against ethnic minorities from Central Asia and Russia`s predominantly Muslim southern republics.
In one of the most shocking cases, Russian investigators said that a boy aged just 14 had been arrested on suspicion of the apparently racist murder of a citizen of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan.
Recent opinion polls have shown that Muscovites are growing increasingly anxious about the number of non-ethnic Russians in the city -- a xenophobia that underscores the fragile coexistence of the country`s Slavic majority and its 160 smaller ethnic groups.
The authorities` handling of the fan`s murder prompted some 5,000 football fans and elements of the far-right to gather outside the Kremlin for a December 11 rally that degenerated into a riot involving brief battles with the police.
The police detained another 1,000 people across the country five days later in a bid to stave off an ethnic clash that was being planned through the Internet.
The rise in violence prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to hold an emergency security meeting this month, with powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowing to crack down on "all manifestation of extremism".