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Russian Police Detain Youths Chanting Nazi Slogans

Nationalist activists shout during their rally in central Moscow.
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian riot police detained around 500 nationalist protesters after an attempted march in Moscow when some of them gave a Nazi salute and shouted "Heil Hitler."

Disturbances also broke out at other nationalist marches in Russia on a national holiday following what human rights groups say are growing problems with racism.

Several hundred youths, some wearing surgical masks and shouting "Russia for Russians" and "Forward, Russia!", turned up in Moscow for an unauthorized demonstration organized by the Russian Movement against Illegal Immigration and another group.

Scuffles broke out when riot police blocked their way and moved in to make arrests.

"At the moment, all protests have ended," a spokesman for Moscow's police, Viktor Biryukov, told the Interfax news agency. "Throughout the day around 500 people have been detained in the city. They were basically participants in unauthorized protests."

The organizers said on their website they had tried to march towards Red Square, next to the Kremlin.

Guns, Knives, Bats

Seventeen people were also arrested after a fight broke out between about 50 youths in a park in Solnechnogorsk, near Moscow, Interfax quoted local police sources as saying.

It said police confiscated stun guns, knives, and bats in the clashes between local youths and people from the Caucasus, meaning ethnic groups from regions such as Chechnya and Daghestan or former Soviet republics such as Georgia and Azerbaijan.

The Moscow Human Rights Bureau reported a rise in xenophobic crimes in the first 10 months of this year, with 113 people killed and 340 wounded. This was a 50 percent rise from the 2007 figure, Interfax quoted the bureau's director as saying.

Unemployment is low but many Russians oppose temporary work permits for people from poor former Soviet republics.

In the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, 20 to 30 antifascist protesters tried to block 200 people who walked through the town chanting nationalistic slogans, Interfax reported.

A similar march was banned by authorities in Vladivostok on Russia's Pacific Coast, although a rally was sanctioned.

An overnight explosion damaged sleepers and left a small crater a railway station in southern Moscow, but no one was hurt and rail traffic was not disrupted, news agencies said.

The Kremlin introduced the People's Unity Day holiday in 2005. It celebrates the defeat of Polish invaders in 1612 and replaces a communist celebration of the 1917 revolution. For most Russians, the day has no political or social significance.