A Syrian and a Lebanese student were injured in the attack in the city of Krasnodar, about 1200km south of Moscow. It was the latest in a series of attacks against foreign students.

Witnesses said the two students were attacked by a group of young Russian men armed with clubs on Saturday.

On Wednesday, nearly 200 students gathered outside Kuban State University, carrying signs that read "We Want Peace" and demanded the university do more to protect them.

The head of the Syrian student organisation in Krasnodar, Gerar Aroyan, said there were more than 15 cases of attacks on foreign students during the past year.

He said one Middle Eastern student was beaten up at least three times this year.

Regional police officials declined to comment on the beating or students' accusations.

University pledge

Anatoly Pinkachenko, chairman of the university's international department, said officials would try to do more to protect the students, some of whom pay up to $6000 a year for their studies in Russia.

About 1500 students from Africa, Asia and the Middle East study at Kuban State University.

"There were such cases last year," he said. "We'll take all measures not to allow this to happen again."

Racist attacks on Jews, dark-skinned foreigners and people from Russia's North Caucasus have become more frequent in Russia's big cities, reflecting a rise in xenophobia and racism.

Non-government experts estimate about 50,000 skinheads are active in Russia.