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Putin seeks broad political coalition as parliamentary elections near

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has suggested setting up a “unified popular front” that would unite organizations such as political parties, trade unions, youth and women’s organizations under a single political platform.

Speaking at United Russia’s conference in Volgograd, Putin noted that such organizations existed in the international political practice. “In essence, I suggest the creation of something that in practical politics is called a unified popular front – the form of unifying the efforts of various political forces ahead of major events of the political character. It has been used and is still being used by different political forces – the leftists and those who we here call right wing liberals, nationalists and patriots,” Putin said.

The prime minister said that the front should include the United Russia party and other organizations, such as other political parties, trade unions, women’s organizations, youth organizations, veterans’ groups and all people who are “united by the idea to strengthen our country and the idea to search for the most optimal possibilities of solving the current problems” . The PM also suggested that United Russia give parliamentary seats to popular people with active political positions, even if they are not members of this political party.

He also added that the name of such a movement was not very important. “It is not a question of how we name it, the issue is what we mean by it and what it is necessary to achieve. This is a tool of unifying political forces that are close in their spirit,” the prime minister said.

Putin’s press secretary said after the session that the first reaction to the suggestion to create the Unified Popular Front was positive. “If I correctly understood the first reaction the heads of our trade unions, our agrarians and youth, the first reaction is more of a positive one. Let’s wait for those who want to join the front,” Dmitry Peskov told reporters. The spokesman also confirmed the initiative to allow public activists to get parliamentary seats on United Russia lists even if they are not United Russia members. “This is a new phenomenon that is capable of consolidating the dominating endeavor for the progressive development of the country,” Peskov said.

­Supporting innovative projects

On Friday, members of the country’s majority party gathered for a regional conference in Volgograd to work out a strategy for the social and economic development of Russia’s Southern Federal District.

As the chairman of the party, Putin addressed the participants with a speech which outlined directions for the future development of the area and also listed what steps has already been taken. The plans for the development are quite ambitious and cover everything from sports and resorts to oil refinery and agriculture.

Putin admitted that Russia has not yet overcome the consequences of the world economic crisis. He added that even a complete recovery would still not be enough to secure the fast and qualitative development of the economy. He underlined that it is necessary to support traditional industry, but at the same time, the country should accelerate its transfer to innovate economy.

Among the ideas the premier voiced was the creation of an agency for strategic initiatives which will help to promote new projects.

The agency will become a public institute under the aegis of the prime minister, Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov explained. The new structure will support new projects and help people to make a breakthrough, he said, commenting on Putin’s idea. “This is a new platform to promote interesting and modern projects, including – and for the most part – in the social sector.”

Participants of the project will be able to discuss their proposals with Putin himself and ministers. But now it is not clear who will head the agency. Its main directions are “new business,” “young professionals,” and the third one will deal with selecting new personnel for state structures.

It is expected that the new agency will coordinate the work of innovative departments of the ministries and oversee a number of federal programs. It is not clear if it will get the status of a state body. “There is no need to increase the number of federal organs of power,” Peskov said. “Changing the agency’s status is a long-term prospect, provided its work is effective.” Existing federal structures created to promote innovative projects will continue working, the prime minister’s press secretary stressed. “The agency will be part of this market,” he noted.

­Respect for history unites Russian nation

Supporting WWII veterans and raising patriotism among young people will always be a priority for the United Russia party, its chairman, Putin said.

Opening the ruling party’s conference in Russia’s southern city of Volgograd – formerly Stalingrad – Putin wished veterans well for the upcoming holiday, May 9, when Russia celebrates the defeat of the Nazi Germany.

“In the history of humanity, the victory 1945 will always remain the victory of a Soviet soldier, who defended the fatherland,” Putin said.

The Battle of Stalingrad – the bloodiest campaign in the history of humanity, which lasted for over five months – became the turning point of WWII, which left the Nazi Germany no chances for winning.

Speaking at the conference, the prime minister stressed that the awareness of historical and cultural heritage, “respectful and careful attitude towards our mutual roots and national history,” is what makes people living on the same territory a united nation. “This is what gives us strength, wisdom, valuable experience and faith in the future of our country, in our ability to solve most difficult and large-scale tasks…,” Putin stated.

He stressed that raising the spirit of patriotism among the young and supporting veterans of the Great Patriotic War will remain a priority for the United Russia party.

As for practical issues, Putin noted that the state has put a lot of effort in solving housing problem for veterans and that work will continue. He pointed out that bureaucratic “callous” approach to veterans is unacceptable.

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