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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Students Confined to Dorms for Hitler's Birthday

The Sechenov Moscow Medical Academy on Thursday ordered its foreign students to remain in their dormitories for the next three days because of fears of ethnic violence ahead of Adolf Hitler's birthday, students said.

Hundreds of foreign students at the prestigious university were instructed to stock up on food and other products and warned that they would not be let out of the dormitories through Saturday in an attempt to protect them amid a marked rise in hate crimes.

In the past, some members of ultranationalist groups have commemorated Hitler's birthday with attacks on ethnic minorities.

"It is nice that the university is taking care of us, but on the other hand, it's absurd that our freedom is being limited because of some militant groups," Liah Ganeline, a medical student from Israel, said by telephone from the university.

Ganeline said authorities had been locking down her dormitory in Moscow -- which houses about 500 students from Asia, Central Asia and the Caucasus -- every April 20 for the past several years. Officials call it a fire drill, she said.

Ganeline said all students were aware of the real reason, and noted that someone had scrawled the word "skinheads" over an announcement of the lockdown posted on a dormitory wall. Last year, she said, a group of skinheads approached the dormitory, shouted offensive slogans, gave the Nazi salute and threw firebombs at the building.

Only practicing physicians in training were allowed to leave the building, she said, along with students who had signed a statement they were responsible for their own safety and had received approval from university officials. Others were given permission to miss classes.

Sergei Baranov, acting dean of the university's foreign students department, said the school was conducting emergency drills through Saturday. Asked why only foreign students were involved in the exercise, Baranov acknowledged that the university was at the same time trying to protect students from possible violence.

"We are trying to kill two birds with one stone -- during these days the danger of some incidents is higher," he said.