Russian groups vow to hold ultranationalist march in Moscow despite official ban

Russia's ultranationalist groups vowed Friday to hold a march in Moscow this weekend, despite a ban from city authorities.

Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov has forbidden the planned rally, saying that ultranationalists used the Nov. 4 National Unity Day to express disturbing extremist views.

During last year's rally, several thousand people marched under extremist banners, and some gave the Nazi salute and shouted "Heil Hitler" while police did not intervene.

Alexander Belov, the leader of the far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigration, told The Associated Press that the march would take place Saturday despite the ban.

"We don't plan to fight with riot police, but no one has banned the use of the subway," Belov said, adding that the activists would gather in a subway station in central Moscow and then decide where to head next.

Authorities said they would deploy 6,500 police and Defense Ministry troops in central Moscow on Saturday, and vowed not to allow any unauthorized rallies to take place.

"We are obliged to stop all illegal and unlawful actions," Moscow police spokesman Yevgeny Gildeyev told the AP.

Similar rallies were also expected to take place in several other Russian provinces, including in the southern city of Volgograd, the Interfax news agency reported citing local activists.

Meanwhile, liberal politicians and rights group planned to hold a counter-rally in Moscow to protest the rise of xenophobia and to promote tolerance. The liberal Union of Right Forces party has urged authorities, including Luzhkov, to attend the event in order to demonstrate their commitment to combating hate crimes and the spread of racist sentiments, reports AP.

Russia has seen an alarming rise in hate crimes, including killings and violent attacks, against dark-skinned foreigners, Jews and immigrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Rights activists say the crimes are partly fueled by the authorities' inaction.

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