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Russian police, neo-Nazis clash after pro-czar rally is prevented

MOSCOW, May 20 (JTA) — Members of a far-right nationalist group clashed this week with Russian police who prevented them from rallying outside the Kremlin to commemorate the birthday of Russia’s last czar, Nicholas II. Some two dozen young activists belonging to the Pamyat group were detained by special riot police forces on Wednesday for staging an unauthorized demonstration. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov banned the event a few hours in advance after learning that the rally would feature Nazi symbols. Last year, Moscow officials banned the use or distribution of swastikas and other Nazi symbols in the Russian capital. Pamyat — which means “memory” — emerged in the early 1980s as a far-right nationalist movement that presented itself as a monarchist group aimed at preserving the values of traditional Russian society. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the group was known as one of the most active and rabidly anti-Semitic organizations in Russia, with branches all across the country. The group has subsequently split up into several nationalist organizations. The majority of current Russian neo-Nazi and ultranationalist leaders formerly belonged to Pamyat. The influence of the largest group, which retained the original name and is headed by Pamyat founder Dimitri Vasilyev, has declined in recent years. The group now claims 1,000 members. Police have previously clashed with the group. In the fall of 1997, police prevented Pamyat from holding a series of anti-Semitic protests at a Moscow bank.