2,000 rally against toxic haze in Russian town

MOSCOW Sun Mar 14, 2010 1:30pm EDT

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Some 2,000 people protested against the release of what they said were toxic fumes in a small town on Russia's Pacific coast Sunday, one of a series of unusually large protests across the country in recent months.

Russians traditionally shy away from public protests and rallies not backed by local authorities often struggle to attract more than a few dozen people.

But 10,000 people took to the streets of the western city of Kaliningrad in January in one of a string of protests against rising household bills. More than 2,000 people protested the opening of a paper mill on the shore of Lake Baikal in February.

Around 2,000 people rallied in Slavyanka, a town of 15,000 people near the border with North Korea Sunday to protest against the release of toxic chemicals by a local oil storage firm, the Interfax and RIA news agencies reported.

Protesters said a blue-grey haze containing the carcinogenic compound benzopyrene regularly blows across the town from the oil facility.

(Writing by Conor Humphries; Editing by Jon Hemming)

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