Several thousand Russian nationalists marched through Moscow on Sunday during President Vladimir Putin’s “National Unity Day” to push for tighter immigration rules and to express nationalist sentiment.
Many of the protesters were calling for stricter travel restrictions and tougher regulations on immigration--mainly focusing on Russia’s North Caucasus region, which has a high population of Muslims.
“Immigrants show no interest in assimilating into Russian society,” a 25-year-old protester named Sergei told state-run RIA Novosti. “If things don’t change, we could see massive ethnic clashes.”
Police said that some 6,000 protesters, many clad in all-black and some covering their faces with surgical masks or scarves, took part in the march. However, organizers said as many as 20,000 took part, according to Radio Free Europe.
Despite having a focus on immigration, the marchers were decidedly anti-Kremlin.
One of the organizers, Vladimir Tor, told RFE that Russia’s “democratic system is ruined.”
“The country lacks democratic institutions. The [Central Election Commission] has become a band of falsifiers and consequently the president and the Duma are only conditionally legitimate,” he continued.
Tor also agreed that the mass influx of immigrants from Central Asia should be staved off.
“It’s essential to implement a visa regime with the countries of Central Asia and to halt heroin traffic and other opiate traffic from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and other Central Asian countries,” Tor said.
There were marches in several Russian cities, including in St. Petersburg, Novokuznetsk, and others.
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