Thousands of Russian nationalists, some wearing swastikas, marched through Moscow on Sunday to protest against immigration.

There were chants of slogans such as ‘Russia for the Russians’ to protest President Vladimir Putin’s government.

Expressing resentment at the number of migrants from the Caucasus and Central Asia living in the country, they chanted: ‘Moscow is a Russian city.’ Nationalists accuse the Kremlin of lavishing privileges on migrants and minorities while ignoring ethnic Russians.

Nationalist leaders believe many ordinary Russians share their concerns but that they are put off by their movement’s more radical members. As a result, some nationalist leaders have denounced racism and violence and some are even trying to set up a more mainstream political party.

‘You hear it all the time: `I’ve really had it with the darkies, but I’m still not a nationalist,’ nationalist leader Konstantin Krylov said last week. ‘And then people go up to me after I speak at protests and say, `Listen, you’re a nationalist, but you’re telling it like it is.”‘

More than 40 Russian Marches were held throughout the country during the day.

Alexander Belov, leader of the nationalist group Russkie, told the marchers in Moscow: ‘Putin is scared of us. He feels his time is coming to an end, because the future belongs to us.’

There were no immediate reports of violence at Sunday’s Unity Day march, which police estimated attracted about 6,000 participants.

But the Itar-Tass news agency cited officers as saying about 25 demonstrators wearing Nazi swastikas were arrested as they shouted slogans at a subway station in the city centre.