Medvedev in ethnic calm appeal

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has appealed for ethnic tolerance, saying the nation benefits from its diversity.

At least 20 percent of Russians admit to feeling hostile towards “people of a different nationality,” according to the country’s leading opinion pollster, the Levada Center.

Tension has grown since a football fan was shot in a brawl with men from the predominately Muslim North Caucasus in December last year.

Addressing an economic forum in the Volga city of Yaroslavl on Thursday, Medvedev said racial animosity threatened the state’s stability.

“Those who behave improperly or commit a crime after coming to a new place should be punished; as should be those who violate the rights of minorities,” Medvedev said.

“However, maintaining law and order should not be an excuse for discriminating against a minority or majority based on their race,” the president said.

Medvedev made the comments a day after Russia’s hawkish NATO envoy, Dmitry Rogozin, said ethnic Russians were a “discriminated majority.”

Rogozin, the former head of the anti-immigration Russian Motherland party, said Russia must drop the politics of interethnic tolerance.

At least fifteen people have been killed in race-hate attacks in Russia this year, according to the Sova Centre for Information and Analysis, which monitors extremism in Russia.

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