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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ultranationalists Gear Up for March

Ultranationalist groups from across the country are mobilizing for demonstrations next month that some officials fear will stoke ethnic hatred and xenophobia.

While the Nov. 4 Russian March looks to be a reprise of last year's events, which featured skinheads and Nazi salutes, some organizers are pledging to purge hatred from the protests.

"We can't allow Nazi chants or symbols, symbols of an enemy that our grandmothers and grandfathers defeated," former Rodina leader Dmitry Rogozin said Thursday.

Rogozin is advising the demonstrations' organizers.

About 30 ultranationalist groups are joining forces for the Russian March, which coincides with People's Unity Day, inaugurated last year.

Demonstrations are being planned for some 15 cities, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Krasnoyarsk and Vladivostok, said Alexander Belov, head of the far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigration. Belov estimated that 10,000 people would take part in the Moscow protest.

Permission to hold the demonstration in Moscow is unlikely to be granted, however, an unnamed source in the mayor's office told Interfax.

In St. Petersburg, Governor Valentina Matviyenko said earlier this week that the march would not be allowed, calling it a "provocation that will lead to ethnic hatred," RIA-Novosti reported.

Bringing Rogozin and other high-profile figures on board was meant to lend legitimacy to the Russian March, Belov said. "We had to show this wasn't some small-time event organized by a bunch of vocational school students from the Moscow suburbs," he said.

Last year's march through Moscow's center included skinheads touting banners that read "Moscow Against Occupiers" and "The Russians Are Coming," and chanting "Russia for Russians," "Moscow for Muscovites," "Sieg Heil," "Heil Hitler" and the Stalinist slogan "Death to the Enemies." It was the biggest ultranationalist protest in at least a decade, with 2,000 to 5,000 people joining in, according to different accounts.

Experts on ultranationalism said this year's demonstrations might look different from last year's, but that the underlying ideology was the same. "In public, they all say that Nazi symbolism should be banned, but then they justify slogans like 'Russia for Russians' and 'Beat up darkies' by saying they aren't Nazi slogans," said Galina Kozhevnikova of the Sova center, a nongovernmental organization that studies xenophobia.