MOSCOW -- Five months to go before the next legislative elections, the Kremlin is turning its attention to the issue of inter-ethnic racism. In recent weeks violent brawls between Russians and ethnic Caucasians near St. Petersburg and the Urals have placed the perennial problem back in the headlines.
In late July, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called for the establishment of an "inter-ministerial structure in charge of ethnic associations." The proposal follows recent talks between Putin and religious and cultural associations. The prime minister invited the organizations to contribute to his Russian Popular Front, a new political machine Putin created for the upcoming elections.