Hundreds demonstrate in southern Russian city

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Hundreds of people demonstrated in a southern Russian city amid tension following the slayings of two ethnic Russians and a Chechen, news reports said, raising fears of fresh ethnic violence in a nation plagued by hate crimes.

More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in a central square in Stavropol following the funerals for two Russian students reportedly stabbed to death over the weekend, some shouting slurs against Chechens and calling for the expulsion of all minority groups from the region, according to witnesses.

NTV television showed nationalist demonstators raising their arms in salutes and shouting "Russia!" The station reported a clash between police and demonstrators after the rally. Russian news agencies said several people were detained. Police declined to comment.

The rally came amid widespread public suspicions of ethnic motives in the deaths of the two ethnic Russians and an ethnic Chechen student who was killed in a brawl a week earlier involving local residents in the city about 1,600 kilometers (some 1,000 miles) south of Moscow and migrants from the nearby Caucasus.

Government officials sought to downplay any racial element in the killings, but Russia has seen a marked rise in xenophobia and racism in recent years, with repeated attacks on foreigners, Jews and dark-skinned migrants.

Many Russian regions are plagued by tension between ethnic Russians and minority groups, especially those from Chechnya and other provinces in the Russian portion of the Caucausus as well as the ex-Soviet republics in the area.

In August, a fight in the northwestern town of Kondopoga that left two local residents dead triggered anger against Chechen migrants blamed for the killings. In the days that followed, crowds burned a restaurant and stores owned by Chechens and other migrants from the Caucasus and demanded their eviction.

Hundreds demonstrate in southern Russian city(Over)
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