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Thousands Rally Against Ethnic Violence In Moscow

Several thousand people gathered today in Moscow's Pushkin Square to rally against racism and ethnic violence.
"Moscow For All," a rally against racism and ethnic violence, took place today in the Russian capital, with protesters condemning attacks on ethnic minorities and the recent ultranationalist riot in the city.

Mumin Shakirov, a correspondent for RFE/RL's Russian Service, said several thousand Muscovites joined organizers of the rally -- writers, actors, scientists, and human rights defenders, among others.

Participants at the rally condemned the ultranationalist and racist mood among some of Russia's youth and a lack of tolerance toward ethnic minorities.

On December 11, an unsanctioned rally by Russian football fans -- protesting the death of a fan in a street brawl the previous week – unraveled into a riot in which thousands of demonstrators chanted racist slogans like "Russia for Russians."

They clashed with riot police, throwing stones, bottles, and blocks of ice. Some even attacked police with metal rods. A Kyrgyz national was stubbed to death and several men of Caucasus origin were severely beaten by ultranationalist protesters.

Initially, it was Victor Shenderovich, a Russian writer, who called on people to organize a demonstration to condemn the violence.

Dozens of prominent figures, including singer Alexei Kortnev, author Marietta Chudakova, musician Vladimir Spivakov, cosmonaut Magomed Tolboev, and actress Chulpan Khamatova supported the idea of organizing the "Moscow For All" rally.

Speaking today to the crowd gathered on the capital's Pushkin Square, Chudakova said it's time to show there is no place for fascists in society.

Shenderovich called on people who condemn ultranationalism and xenophobia to take to streets and make their voices heard.

"If the number of people gathered here was 10 times higher," Shenderovich said, "changes would happen already tomorrow, because, as you know, politicians follow the masses."

Shenderovich read out a message from Yelena Bonner, the prominent Russian human rights defender, who called herself a "Muscovite, Jew, and Caucasus national."

"Count me among those who came to Pushkin Square to defend the country once again," she said.

written by Farangis Najibullah, based on reports by RFE/RL's Russian Service
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