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RA’s Daily Russian News Blast – May 9, 2011

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TODAY: Moscow marks Victory Day with parade; Khimki demonstrators arrested after clashes; forest fires; tandem split, Putin calls for Russian front to broaden popular support; nationalist coalition meets. 
A military parade was held in Red Square this morning to mark Victory Day and the 66th anniversary of the Soviet’s WWII defeat of Germany.  200,000 police were called in to maintain security following reports of thwarted terrorist attacks.  Things are hotting up in Khimki Forest, with reports that 25 activists, including figurehead Yevgenia Chirkova, were arrested and allegedly beaten by police at a demonstration against the building of a highway through Khimki Forest.  RFE/RL has photos of the clashes and a video of the small group’s efforts to stop felling.  Things are also hotting up in Siberia, where the area covered by forest fires has doubled over the past 24 hours.  Two former prosecutors have been arrested for alleged involvement in illegal gambling.

Ellen Barry writes on speculations about the relationship of the ruling tandem, focusing in particular on the views of United Russia refugee Konstantin Zatulin, who believes that Medvedev and his inner circle want to hold onto the ‘grandiose authorities‘ provided by the presidency, and are therefore now trying to undermine Vladimir Putin.  Analysts say that Putin will need to ensure that United Russia retains its parliamentary majority if he wants to broaden his popular support ahead of the elections, hence his announcement that Russia needs to form ‘a broad popular front‘ to achieve the ‘unification of various forces‘ ahead of the elections.  According to the Prime Minister’s spokesman, the popular front will be formed ‘not on the basis of the party but more likely around Putin, the author of this idea‘.  Medvedev has called for the gap in ‘patriotic education‘ to be filled. 
A new coalition of 40 nationalist groups, ‘The Russians‘, held its founding meeting in Moscow this week.
PHOTO: Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, war veterans and cadets watch a military parade in Red Square on Victory Day in Moscow May 9, 2011. Russia celebrates the 66th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin