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Ruling Party's Youth Group Blames Migrants For Russia's Woes

Young Guard members demonstrate outside the Federal Migration Service offices in Moscow.

Young Guard members demonstrate outside the Federal Migration Service offices in Moscow.

MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Activists from the youth wing of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling party has held demonstrations against immigrant workers, demanding they return home and blaming them for Russia's recent economic woes.

Russia is trying to prevent a deepening economic crisis from stalling an 10-year boom. But rising unemployment is starting to focus some discontent on more than 10 million immigrants who have flocked to Russia to find work.

Wearing white and red baseball caps, about 30 activists from Young Guard, a youth section of the Unified Russia party, gathered in the rain outside the Moscow office of the migration service. The group held similar protests across the country.

"Every second [migrant] should go home," the group, mainly under 20 years old, shouted about migrants.

Activists held banners which said, "We will defend Russian citizens" and "Our country, our work."

Putin, who is chairman of Unified Russia, told a televised question-and-answer session last week that quotas for foreign workers should be cut by half.

But Putin, who was president from 2000-08, also said most Russians would refuse to do the work immigrants traditionally do. He also warned against racism and called for tougher penalties for racist crimes.

Russian stocks, bonds, and the currency have tumbled this year as investors expect economic growth could be wiped out after the price of oil -- Russia's main export -- collapsed to less than $40 per barrel from more than $140 in the summer.

One of the Young Guard's leaders, Andrei Tatarinov, said in a statement on the group's webpage that businesses should only be allowed to employ foreigners when Russians had already declined to take the job.

"Employers must only allow foreign workers to go for positions that Russians are not interested in," he said.

"Migrants who do not have permission for work in Russia must be expelled from the country to free up places for Russian citizens...and to prevent an escalation in crime that could arise from unemployed migrants."

Most of Russia's migrants come from ex-Soviet states in Central Asia and the Caucasus and work in low-paid jobs in the construction and service industries. Many work illegally.