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Russians Mark Anniversary Of Rights Activists' Slayings

WATCH: People marched in Moscow on January 19 to the site of the slayings on January 19, 2009, of Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova.

Russians in a number of cities have attended rallies to express concern over alarming signs of racism and to honor two human rights defenders -- a lawyer and a journalist -- slain by unknown assailants two years ago.

The biggest of the rallies took place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, where organizers claimed thousands of attendees marked the second anniversary of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and reporter Anastasia Baburova being gunned down in central Moscow in 2009.

Markelov had taken up several causes involving Russia's conflict in Chechnya that were said to have angered ultranationalists.

The Moscow rally included a march to the site of the killings, where hundreds gathered to pay their respects and lay flowers.

Around 20 people were said to have been wearing masks or lighting flares were briefly detained, but it was unclear whether they were part of the rally.

The trial of an accused gunman is scheduled to open next week.

compiled from RFE/RL and agency reports