TODAY: May Day protests over inflation; Champion League football match to be held in Moscow, continues to dominate the press; Lavrov in London for Middle East Quarter; US congressman warn against anti-Russian positions; further peacekeeping troops in Abhkazia spark international criticism. A number of protests were staged across Russia to mark May Day, with Moscow recorded as having demonstrations involving up to 30,000 people, and far eastern regions seeing crowds “protest[ing] against inflation and falling government social subsidies.” In Chelyabinsk, some 14,000 people marched under the slogan, “Let salaries rise higher than prices!” US congressmen have warned against the “knee-jerk anti-Russian position” frequently adopted by the US. CIA chief Michael Hayden says Russia’s population will decrease by 32 million – roughly a quarter – by 2050. The Middle East Quartet – Russia, the US, the UN and the EU – will meet in London to discuss Palestinian aid and the Iranian nuclear question.
A meeting of Russian and NATO representatives saw further criticism for Russia’s expansion of its peacekeeping force in Abkhazia. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she is “very concerned” by the troop buildup, and one UK newspaper accuses Russia of acting like a “colonial bully” in relation to Georgia. The same paper is running another story, in its “Litvinenko Files” series, on polonium, speculating that “the polonium tracked in London was part of some sort of deal – a deal that, for whatever reason, went disastrously wrong.” Britain’s Defense Minister says Royal Air Forces intercepted 21 Russian bombers over the last year.The Russian connection to Chelsea football team, owned by Roman Abramovich, means that there is “heightened interest in the outcome [of the Champions League] among ordinary fans” in Moscow. “Politics and sport are never far apart in Russia.” There is a “50-50 chance” that Russia will waive the need for immigration visas for UK fans travelling to Moscow for the final. Moscow’s Sport Express newspaper has “summed up […] the minefield of Anglo-Russian relations” in a comment piece, asking: “What should we be doing now? Congratulating ourselves for having 42,000 Brits coming to town, or start regretting it?“PHOTO: Supporter of the Kremlin-backed party United Russia holds a party’s flag with a portrait of President Vladimir Putin, during a march marking the May Day holiday in St. Petersburg, Russia, Thursday, May 1, 2008. (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)