Moscow police arrest 800 to prevent ethnic violence

MOSCOW Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:05pm EST

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian police detained hundreds of people in Moscow on Saturday, including young nationalists who rallied in the north of the city, as part of a clampdown to prevent new outbreaks of ethnic violence.

The arrests came a week after some 7,000 soccer fans and nationalists chanting racist slogans demonstrated near Red Square and attacked passers-by who appeared to be ethnic minorities, injuring more than 30 people.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has condemned those attacks, which highlighted simmering ethnic tensions in the country, as "pogroms."

In a sanctioned demonstration on Saturday under the Ostankino television tower in the north of Moscow, hundreds of young ethnic Russian nationalists gathered and shouted slogans such as "Patriotism is not Fascism."

"The rally was sanctioned, but soon the young people got bored, split into groups, and started marching with flaming torches toward the metro. This was illegal of course, and the police made arrests," said Moscow police spokesman, Viktor Biryukov.

He said there had been no violence and that most of the demonstrators were in their early teens. Other arrests were made at unsanctioned protests in other areas of the Moscow region.

Police quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency said just over 800 arrests had been made. Weapons, including knives and stun guns, were confiscated. Alongside the nationalists, Russian news agencies reported that some people of migrant origin had also been detained.

Russian authorities launched a similar crackdown on Wednesday, detaining about 800 ethnic Russian youths and migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia who had been gathering for a rumored confrontation near the central Kievsky railway station

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Thursday during a televised question and answer session with Russian citizens that all forms of extremism must be prevented.

(Editing by Noah Barkin)

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