Ultranationalist demonstrators give fascist salutes during their authorized rally in downtown Moscow, on Sunday Nov. 4, 2007. The political and economic turmoil that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union generated hostility toward foreigners, especially millions of migrant workers in Russia. The trend has worsened in recent years. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
Foreigners and ethnic minorities were expecting violence during the celebrations of People’s Unity Day which “has been marred by nationwide rallies held by Russia’s mushrooming ultranationalist and neo-Nazi groups.” Among the events held on Unity Day was a 5,000-strong nationalist march, attended this year by a white supremacist from Texas. Counter-rallies were held by pro-Kremlin youth groups and the Yabloko party. “Only by uniting our efforts can we achieve results in developing our country and ensure that it take an appropriate place in the world. That is why, the idea that inspired this holiday seems to be very important to me and deserves support,” Vladimir Putin said of the holiday, introduced by the Kremlin in 2005 to replace the communist holiday of November 7 celebrating the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Jokes made about the President in a Communist Party newsletter circulated in Novosibirsk sparked an investigation by the FSB security service. “You can’t criticise Putin on television or in the mainstream media, so now you can’t criticise United Russia either,” said one analyst. Campaigning for the Russian parliamentary election officially begun over the weekend. A 500-strong protest called “The March of Empty Casseroles” was held in St. Petersburg on the weekend against rising food prices caused by inflation, leading to the arrest of three of its organizers. “To talk about democracy in Russia today is utterly ridiculous,” says Kremlinologist Stanislav Belkovsky. “Should we be afraid of the new Russia?” The government is reportedly considering putting new restrictions on Russian human rights and other nongovernmental groups to limit their ability to participate in Western democracy organizations such as the OSCE. It has been revealed that the mystery investor who proposed buying a 25% stake in Imperial Energy was Gazprom. Analysts say that last week’s session of the US Federal Reserve System’s open market committee, held to decide on new interest rates, will have short-term effects on the Russian stock market. Despite concern about stock-market bubbles in Brazil, Russia, India and China, the biggest emerging markets “still may have more promise than anything in the developed world.” OAO Synergy, Russia’s second-largest closely held vodka producer, based in Moscow, will be valued at as much as $1.03 billion at its initial public offering. The former head of the Kremenchuck refinery in the Ukraine, of which Russia holds a 28% stake, has been reinstated, backed by armed guards. First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov called the move a “flagrant outrage”. The Russian anti-monopoly authorities have made inquiries into Russian oil refineries about reduced production of oil derivatives and higher prices. Russia has paid off its remaining $563 million Soviet-era debt to the United Arab Emirates. Georgia’s Defense Ministry has said that three aircraft allegedly penetrated its airspace from Russia. Russia’s Defense Ministry denied reports that the aircraft were Russian. Georgia’s president, Mikhail Saakashvili, has accused Russia of fomenting mass protests against him. Two men found dead in a ditch in St Petersburg last weekend were from Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service, a powerful force of former KGB officers, and had been poisoned. Some think the killings are related to current Kremlin turf wars.