Sunday, November 04, 2007

EC: Nationalism

Russian Nationalists March in Moscow
Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW - A white supremacist from Texas lifted his black cowboy hat into the air as he stepped forward to address thousands of Russian nationalists at a rally Sunday in Moscow.

"I'm taking my hat off as a sign of respect for your strong identity in ethnicity, nation and race," said Preston Wiginton, 43, exposing his close-cropped head to a freezing drizzle.

"Glory to Russia," he said in broken Russian, as the crowd of mostly young Russian men raised their right hands in a Nazi salute and chanted "white power!" in English.

About 5,000 nationalists turned out for the Russian March, held for the third year on National Unity Day, a holiday the Kremlin created in 2005 to replace the traditional Nov. 7 celebration of the 1917 Bolshevik rise to power.

The Kremlin has tried to give the holiday historical significance by tying it to the 1612 expulsion of Polish and Cossack troops who briefly seized Moscow at a time of political disarray.

But extreme nationalists have seized on the holiday, reflecting a rise in xenophobia. More than 50 people have been killed and 400 injured in ethnically motivated attacks this year, according to the Sova rights center.

Rights activists say the extreme nationalist sentiments are a natural outgrowth of the Kremlin's attempts to rebuild a strong Russian state.

President Vladimir Putin, who celebrated Sunday's holiday by laying flowers at the monument to Moscow's 17th century liberators, told the military cadets and pro-Kremlin youth group members who accompanied him that there are people in the world seeking to split Russia and divide up its natural resource wealth.

"Some believe that we are too lucky to possess so much natural wealth, which they say must be divided," Putin said, speaking near the monument on Red Square. "These people have lost their mind," he added with a smile.

Pro-Kremlin youth groups and the liberal Yabloko party also held rallies Sunday, in part to counter the nationalist march.

"This holiday is a gift for the most reactionary and dangerous group - the nationalists," Yabloko deputy chairman Sergei Mitrokhin told a crowd of about 1,500.

Thousands of pro-Kremlin youth activists marched through central Moscow and gathered near Red Square to sew together a "blanket of peace," symbolizing harmony among Russia's numerous ethnic groups.

The nationalists, who were kept away from the city center, marched along an embankment of the Moscow River to a small square, waving banners that read "Russians, stand up," "Russian order or war," and "Tolerance is AIDS."

What united the marchers was their opposition to nonwhite migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia.

"Russia will be white," said Alexander Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Migration. His last name, based on the Russian word for "white," is a nom de guerre.

"Our ultimate goal is our race and nation. Nation above all," he said, rephrasing the Nazi slogan "Germany above all."

A top immigration official down played the significance of the Russian Marches.

"This is just an outbreak of national identity feelings, which is noticeable worldwide, and it has affected Russia too," said Vyacheslav Postavnin, deputy director of the Federal Migration Service, the Interfax news agency reported.

In the first Russian March in 2005, thousands marched through central Moscow, some shouting "Heil Hitler." The march horrified many Muscovites, and the following year it was blocked by police.

"The first Russian March was unexpected good luck, the second one was about overcoming the resistance of the authorities, and the third one is already a new Russian tradition," said Konstantin Krylov of the nationalist Russian Social Movement.

City authorities approved Sunday's march but ordered it held on the river embankment away from the city center. Hundreds of police lined the route.

Nationalist marches also were held in other Russian cities.

In St. Petersburg, about 500 people rallied at Revolution Square in front of the Winter Palace. Police detained 12 men who attempted to break into a Chinese restaurant, the Regnum news agency reported.


Associated Press writer Bagila Bukharbayeva contributed to this report

EC: Immigration

11/04/2007 17:56:36 EST
Italians Urge Expulsion of Immigrants
Associated Press Writer

ROME - Opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi urged Italy to close its borders to Romanian workers and a conservative ally called Sunday for the expulsion of tens of thousands of immigrants amid public outrage over a wave of violent crimes blamed on foreigners.

Pope Benedict XVI added his voice to the debate over the balance between citizen safety and treatment of foreigners, reminding authorities that immigrants have both obligations and rights.

The pope weighed in as lawmakers prepared to debate the government's response to recent crime, including fast-track expulsions of Romanians and other EU citizens deemed dangerous and bulldozing shantytowns housing immigrants.

"In Rome alone, 20,000 expulsions should be carried out right away," right-wing leader Gianfranco Fini, a key Berlusconi ally, said on a TV talk show Sunday.

Romanians have been detained as suspects in several recent high-profile crimes, including the rape of a woman on church steps in northern Italy, a mugging that left a Rome cyclist in a coma for weeks before he died, and the robbery of a Milan coffee bar in which the elderly owner was beaten and her daughter raped.

Other recent crimes in which foreigners are suspected include the mugging of Oscar-winning director Giuseppe Tornatore, which sent him to the hospital; the holdup of a prominent TV anchorman and the mugging of a Rome municipal commissioner.

Berlusconi told La Stampa newspaper that Italy should enact a moratorium against Romanian workers.

"If I were in the government, I would have done it," the billionaire media mogul and former premier said.

After Romania joined the EU earlier this year, Romanians poured into Italy in search of work as maids, nannies, waiters, janitors and bricklayers, and they now account for nearly 1 percent of the population in Italy.

Last week, the Cabinet gave authorities the power to expel EU citizens with criminal records, or those deemed dangerous to public safety. The decree needs approval in parliament, where Premier Romano Prodi's center-left forces have a narrow majority, to remain in effect long-term.

The savage beating last week of the wife of an Italian naval commander triggered the emergency decree after a Romanian was arrested in connection with the assault.

Berlusconi said he was mulling whether his conservative lawmakers should approve the decree, while Fini said his forces would vote for it only if expulsions are expanded to include EU citizens without a means to support themselves.

Another right-wing leader, Roberto Calderoli, advocated vigilante patrols.

Italian authorities say statistics show foreigners commit a disproportionate number of crimes. Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni said 75 percent of arrests in the city in the last year involved Romanians. On a national level, less than 5 percent of Italy's population in 2004 - before Romania joined the EU - was foreign, yet foreigners accounted for 26 percent of those convicted of crimes.

The wave of crime has sparked a backlash against foreigners. Police were searching for several Italians attacked and wounded three Romanians with clubs and knives in a Rome parking lot on Friday night.

The attack prompted Romania's government to warn Italy against letting public concern over crime degenerate into xenophobia.

In Bucharest, Romanian's prime minister, Calin Popescu Tariceanu, summoned top Cabinet ministers Sunday to discuss the issue. Tariceanu's office said he would travel to Rome later this week.

"We should fight against the wave of xenophobia that is manifesting itself in Italy and we must fight against the bad image that Romanians who are working in Italy have," he said Saturday.

Pope Benedict expressed his concern.

"Those who deal with security and welcoming programs know how to use instruments aimed at guaranteeing the rights and duties that are at the foundations" of coexistence.


Associated Press writer Alison Mutler contributed to this report from Bucharest, Romania.