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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

G8 Protesters Given Remote Rally Venue

ST. PETERSBURG -- Protesters will be allowed to gather in a stadium in a remote corner of St. Petersburg during next month's summit of leaders from the Group of Eight nations, the city's governor, Valentina Matviyenko, said Thursday.

Matviyenko said authorities responded to a request by activist groups seeking to hold an alternative summit by offering them several places to meet. The groups chose the Kirov Stadium, on the tip of an island far from the historic center of the city, she said.

Matviyenko told a news conference that nongovernmental organizations had the right to express their views as long as they did not break the law or hinder the activities of the world leaders or city residents -- an indication that officials would deny any requests for groups to gather or demonstrate near the summit site, in central areas or along major thoroughfares.

The G8 summit itself, which will bring together the leaders of the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada and Russia, is being held at a restored palace that is also removed from the city center.

Russia is chairing the G8 for the first time this year, amid growing criticism from the West about its commitment to stable energy supplies, human rights and democracy.

Russia's envoy to the G8 last month denied rumors that the government would bar protesters during the summit. However, Igor Shuvalov said Russian consulates were consulting with other G8 governments about people they would not want to "see next to the summit."

A Russian activist leader said earlier this year that he anticipated visa problems for foreigners wanting to attend to the event being billed as an alternative summit.

Russia is eager to avoid the violence that has occurred during protests at previous G8 summits. The country also wants to make a good impression on the world during the summit; Matviyenko promised law enforcement authorities would adhere to international norms and would not use force unless necessary.

Matviyenko said the arrests of several alleged members of a group of extreme nationalists suspected in several apparently ethnically motivated slayings in St. Petersburg should lessen the chances of more hate crimes occurring -- suggesting the group was the main culprit.

She said the group whose suspected members were arrested -- one was killed by police -- was seeking to "discredit the country and the city" ahead of the summit. She sought to dispel the image of St. Petersburg as hotbed of neo-Nazi racism. "There is no xenophobic mood in the city. St. Petersburg has always been a very tolerant city," she said.