MOSCOW — Hundreds of neo-Nazis rallied in Moscow Saturday to protest the Kremlin’s policies in the violence-plagued Caucasus region and call on forceful expulsion of non-Slavic migrants from Russia.
About 300 protesters, including activists from banned or unregistered groups that preach white supremacy, waved red-and-white flags with German Nazi eagles and chanted “Hail Russia! Stop feeding the Caucasus!”
The predominantly Muslim, mountainous region hosts at least 100 ethnicities including Chechens, who have waged two separatist wars against Moscow after the 1991 Soviet collapse.
Analysts say the Chechen conflict, with atrocities and civilian slayings committed by both Russian forces and militant Islamists, has triggered the rise of xenophobia and neo-Nazism in Russia as well as growing resentment by Caucasus natives to ethnic Russians and Moscow’s rule.
After pacifying Chechnya, the Kremlin has spent billions of dollars on restoring the region and funding provincial governments that often include former warlords and jihadists, including the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has boasted of killing his first Russian soldier at age 15.
In recent years, Islamists and criminal groups have stepped up attacks on servicemen and officials in most of the Caucasus provinces and organized attacks on civilians in Moscow and central Russia.
On Friday, unidentified militants killed a police officer and wounded a soldier in the village of Chaumyan in the province of Dagestan that neighbours Chechnya, police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said.
Racially motivated attacks, often targeting people from Caucasus and ex-Soviet Central Asia, have risen in recent years, peaking in 2008, when 110 were killed and 487 wounded, independent human rights watchdog Sova said.
The group said ultranationalist thugs have recruited thousands of supporters on Internet forums and chat rooms.
About 70,000 neo-Nazis are active in Russia — compared with a just few thousand in the early 1990s, according to the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights.