500 Protesters Held At Nationalist March

MTOMON riot police detaining nationalists trying to hold a march Tuesday on Arbat to mark People's Unity Day. Police detained about 500 for participating in the march, one of several staged in Moscow on the holiday.
Hundreds of people were detained in central Moscow on Tuesday afternoon during an unsanctioned nationalist rally on the People's Unity Day holiday.

RIA-Novosti reported that about 500 had been detained near Arbatskaya metro station. They included Dmitry Dyomushkin, the leader of Slavic Union, or SS, and Alexander Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, or DPNI, Interfax and the DPNI web site reported, respectively. Practically all were later released, Interfax reported.

City Hall had denied a request by DPNI and the SS to hold an annual Nov. 4 march, saying the venues they sought had either been reserved by other groups or were unsuitable for such a demonstration.

An authorized Russian March was held Tuesday by the People's Union movement, headed by former State Duma deputy Sergei Baburin. Interfax reported that it attracted about 400 participants to Naberezhnaya Tarasa Shevchenko, in central Moscow.

After a melee in which dozens were beaten at the unsanctioned Arbat rally, the marchers dispersed, many heading toward the second, sanctioned nationalist rally, while others continued their march down Ulitsa Arbat toward Smolenskaya Ploshchad.

As portrait painters looked on, dozens of young protesters, many with their lower faces hidden by football scarves in national colors, were hauled down the street with their arms pinned behind their backs by OMON riot troops, who put them into detainment trucks.

Near the Hard Rock Cafe, OMON troops formed a cordon and stopped the advance toward Smolenskaya Ploshchad.

While chanting "Disgrace!" "Glory to Russia!" and "Russia forward!" the group was divided and pushed toward the walls by lines of riot police.

Although the action had a strong racist element, the increasing problems spawned by the financial crisis gave the rhetoric an economic edge.

"These are not gastarbaitery," said Boris Ivanov, a DPNI member, referring to the thousands of men and women who come to Moscow from Central Asia and the Caucasus to work in markets and construction sites. "These are strikebreakers," he said.

"Life is already very hard for us, and they come and bring down pay rates and make it even harder," he said, while those around him vigorously nodded their heads. "They are useful for the Kremlin and the oligarchs, because they work for less."

City Hall had authorized marches in three of the past four years, but this year authorities reacted strongly to the illegal marchers by deploying hundreds of truncheon-wielding riot police.

The reason behind the unwillingness of the city's authorities to sanction the march could be fear that it would lead to riots in the street, especially given the people's worries about the looming financial crisis, said Alexei Mukhin of the Center for Political Technologies.

"The government has tried to solve the financial crisis by allowing gastarbaitery to work in Russia," said Anton Susov, 23, a DPNI member who had been waiting with a group of other members of the movement — including a 15-year-old boy — in a side street off of the Arbat, for the OMON to pass.

"It is possible that over the next few months the crisis will become worse, and there will be an uprising," he said. "The government is right now quashing the opposition before anything can be organized — before we can get stronger."

Susov said they had to take politics to the streets because the Kremlin had not allowed his party to stand for Duma elections last year.

At the sanctioned rally, other nationalist groups echoed the sentiment.

"Real politics you can only carry out on the street. I practice real politics," said Vladimir Kvachkov, a former colonel in the Russian army at the sanctioned rally, who has been accused of trying to kill former Unified Energy System chief Anatoly Chubais.

Authorized Russian Marches took place Tuesday in a few other cities across Russia, as well as in Ukraine's Simferopol.