Some 1,500 people rallied in central Moscow on Sunday to protest the wave of ethnic violence that shook the Russian capital this month, following the deadly shooting of a football supporter.
The demonstrators chanted "Russia is open to everyone" and held up signs reading "Russia without fascism, Russia without Nazism" during the sanctioned gathering on Pushkin Square, just a few blocks from the Kremlin.
The December 4 shooting of a Moscow football fan by a Muslim suspect has sparked a wave of ethnic disturbances in the Russian capital, with groups of ultra nationalists holding several large rallies throughout the city. Police said that racism was the probable cause behind a spate of recent deadly attacks against ethnic minorities from Central Asia and Russia's predominantly Muslim southern republics.
In one of the most shocking cases, Russian investigators said that a boy aged just 14 had been arrested on suspicion of the apparently racist murder of a Kyrgyz citizen.
Recent opinion polls have shown that Muscovites are growing increasingly anxious about the number of non ethnic Russians in the city; a xenophobia that underscores the fragile coexistence of the country's Slavic majority and its 160 smaller ethnic groups.
The authorities' handling of the fan's murder prompted some 5,000 football fans and elements of the far right to gather outside the Kremlin for a December 11 rally that degenerated into a riot involving brief battles with the police. The police detained another 1,000 people across the country five days later in a bid to stave off an ethnic clash that was being planned through the Internet.
The rise in violence prompted President Dmitry Medvedev to hold an emergency security meeting this month, with his powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowing to crack down on "all manifestation of extremism".