Thousands gather to protest caricatures in Russia's Caucasus
GROZNY, Russia (AP) Tens of thousands of people gathered Monday in the Russian region of Chechnya to rally against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
They marched through the streets of downtown Grozny, the capital of the predominantly Muslim region, releasing balloons and carrying posters that read "Hands off our beloved prophet" and "Europe has only united us."
On Friday, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov wrote on his official Instagram account that those who defended Charlie Hebdo were his "personal enemies," and vowed that at least 1 million people would join the government-sponsored protest in Grozny.
Russia, which has a large and restive Muslim population and waged two devastating wars against Chechnya in the 1990s, offered its condolences to France after the attack but has warned local publications against reprinting Charlie Hebdo cartoons that featured the Prophet Mohammed.
Roskomnadzor, the Russian communications oversight agency, sent letters to several local publications barring them from re-publishing the French caricatures, and published a warning to nationwide publications on its Facebook page last week.
"Roskomnadzor calls on all national media to choose other methods of expressing their solidarity with their tragically killed French colleagues, rather than inflaming sectarian tensions in Russian society," said the statement.
According to Russian news agencies, 15,000 people joined a similar demonstration in the neighboring region of Ingushetia on Saturday.