Thousands of nationalists have rallied in Russia, venting anger against migrants they accuse of pushing up the crime rate and taking their jobs.

Demonstrators marched on annual National Unity Day on Monday through the streets of St Petersburg, Kazan, Irkutsk and Moscow. Many carried placards with slogans such as "Russia for the Russians", while one group displayed a banner reading, "Young people against tolerance".

"Moscow has only just woken up, and Russians have only just started to recognise their identity," said Alexander Belov, a nationalist leader and an organiser of a march in the capital. "With every day Russian nationalists are gaining more and more support across the country."

Yelena Yermakova, a 56-year-old local who was taking a walk with her daughter and two grandchildren, said there were "too many" migrants in Moscow and they were "getting cheeky".

Anger against migrants

Monday's rally came three weeks after rioters targeted a vegetable warehouse where they believed a migrant who killed a Russian man was working. Rioters destroyed shops, attacked security and demanded "Russia for Russians" before police stepped in.

Police later rounded up more than 1,000 migrants working at the warehouse, although no one was accused of a crime.

Animosity is strong among nationalists against migrants from the former Soviet Central Asian republics and against non-Slavs from the largely Muslim Russian Caucasus region.

Central Asian migrants are widely employed in big cities in construction and do other low-paid jobs that Russians are not eager to do.

A UN report in September said Russia has about 11 million migrants. Russia is visa-free for all Central Asian republics, so most of the migrant workers are in the country legally.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies