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Sunday 24 September 2017

Thousands rally in Russia's Chechnya for Rohingya

Local residents pray during a mass protest in Chechnya's provincial capital Grozny (AP)
Local residents pray during a mass protest in Chechnya's provincial capital Grozny (AP)

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in Russia's predominantly Muslim Chechnya to protest against what the Chechen leader called "genocide of Muslims" in Burma.

Burmese security officials and Muslim Rohingya insurgents have accused each other of atrocities in Burma's Rakhine state, where nearly 400 people, most of them insurgents, have died in clashes.

A huge rally was held on Monday in the Chechen capital Grozny to support the Rohingya minority.

In a speech, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov compared the violence against Rohingya to the Holocaust.

In a video released earlier, Mr Kadyrov said he would "go against Russia" if the Russian government supports Burma's military.

Russian federal forces fought two bloody wars in Chechnya in the 1990s.

State television footage showed tens of thousands rallying in Grozny's main square to support the Rohingya.

Mr Kadyrov, who has ruled the republic for more than a decade, keeps a tight grip on Chechen society, and any public displays there are carefully orchestrated.

Local police authorities reported that 1.1 million people attended the rally.

The entire population of Chechnya is 1.4 million, according to official statistics.

On Monday, police arrested 20 people for disturbing public order outside the Burmese embassy in Moscow, Russian news agencies reported.

On Sunday, some 800 people held an unauthorised protest outside the embassy.

Russia has developed military ties with Burma in recent years. Russia's defence minister hosted Burma's commander in chief in June, and Russia has been selling arms to the South Asian nation including some of its most advanced fighter jets and artillery systems.

Mr Kadyrov fought with Chechen separatists in a war with Russian forces in the 1990s, but switched sides in the second war that began in 1999.

In recent years, Mr Kadyrov has cultivated ties with several leaders in the Muslim world and has recently used Russia's involvement in Syria to position himself as Russia's most influential Muslim.

Mr Kadyrov's charitable foundation has been sending humanitarian aid to Syrian children and offering funds to restore Aleppo's oldest mosque and other landmarks.

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