"I instruct the Russian government immediately to make decisions to regulate trade at wholesale and retail markets and control the presence of foreign workers there, to increase the accountability of market administrations for violations of migration regulations both by market officials and by traders, and to toughen visa regulations for foreigners violating Russian laws," Putin said.
Putin said crime was rife at Russia's markets and cited recent clashes between ethnic Russians and foreign traders.
He said authorities should take measures to "protect the interests of Russian producers" and "the native population of Russia."
Putin's orders came as Russian authorities announced a tightening of immigration controls against Georgians amid a major crisis in relations with Tbilisi over spying allegations.
THE COMING MUSLIM MAJORITY: On February 28, Russia expert PAUL GOBLE, vice dean of social sciences and humanities at Concordia-Audentes University in Tallinn, Estonia, gave a briefing at RFE/RL's Washington office. Goble said ethographers predict Russia will have a Muslim majority "within our lifetime." Since 1989, Russia's Muslim population has increased by 40 percent, Goble said, rising to some 25 million self-declared Muslims. He said 2.5 million to 3.5 million Muslims now live in Moscow, gving Moscow the largest Muslim population of any city in Europe. Russia today has more than 8,000 mosques, up from just 300 in 1991. By 2010, experts predict, some 40 percent of Russian military conscripts will be Muslims.
Goble noted that these changes have been accompanied by a "rising tide" of anti-Muslim prejudice. Public-opinion surveys reveal that up to "70 percent of ethnic Russians" express sympathy with xenophobic slogans. Goble warned that heavy-handed state efforts to "contain Islam" could backfire and cause groups to move underground, "radicalizing people who are not yet radicalized."
LISTENListen to the entire briefing (about 85 minutes):
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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: To view an archive of all of RFE/RL's coverage of Russia's North Caucasus, click here.