Russian extreme nationalists blasted Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday and shouted slogans against immigrants at a rally to honour troops killed fighting in Chechnya, an AFP correspondent reported.
Around 500 people from a variety of nationalist organisations gathered at a monument commemorating members of a paratroop battalion killed in Chechnya in 2000, shouting slogans like “Great Victory!” and “Praise to the Heroes!”
Some of the protesters carried placards bearing photographs of soldiers condemned for crimes in Chechnya, such as Yury Budanov who was found guilty of strangling an 18-year-old Chechen girl to death in 2000.
“Glory to Russia!” “We Need a Strong Army!” shouted the protesters in the so-called Russian march, who came from a variety of extreme right groups such as the ultra-nationalist Slavic Union.
“Should Putin resign?” yelled one of the speakers, standing on the back of a truck. “Yes!” shouted the crowd. “Who is Russia for?” asked the speaker again. “Russians!” roared the crowd.
The avowed aim of the gathering was to remember over 80 Russian soldiers from the western city of Pskov who were killed in a single clash with Chechen fighters in 2000, in one of Russia’s worst defeats of the war.
“We are here today because what we have now is not the Russia that they (the soldiers who fought in Chechnya) believed in,” said Georgy Borovikov, a leader of the National Memorial Patriotic Front.
“Look at all the illegal immigration and how the national values are being eroded.
“They did not fight for that.”
“Putin is not a good leader. In fact, he’s not really a leader at all. He supports anti-nationalistic policies and he still believes in the evil empire – the Soviet Union.”
The protesters laid wreaths and flowers at a memorial for the soldiers, marching past a huge contingent of hundreds of riot police who had been bussed in on dozens of armoured vehicles.
The rally passed peacefully.
The statue, which draws its inspiration from Soviet monuments to military heroism, was erected on the order of Putin in 2002.
The rally comes amid growing concerns about racism in Russia amid the economic crisis after an upsurge of attacks against foreigners in recent years.
A total of 122 people were killed and 377 wounded in racially motivated attacks in Russia in 2008, according to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights.
Gulf Times (Qatar)