Vladimir Putin will promote Ukrainian war veterans as candidates for his United Russia party in regional elections this year, local media has reported, reinforcing the “militarisation” of Russia.
At a meeting this week of the Young Guard, United Russia’s youth wing, Alexander Sidyakin, the party’s deputy secretary general, said that he had been ordered to give war veterans his “full support”.
“We will help them with campaigning and information. Help them make videos, print materials, promote them somewhere on social networks,” he said.
Primaries are taking place later this month ahead of voting in September, with elections planned for most of Russia’s regions on what is one of the biggest days in the country’s political cycle.
Western analysts said that Putin wants to use the elections to keep the war at the centre of Russian life.
The US-based Institute for the Study of War described the plan to promote war veterans as a “militarisation” of the United Russia party.
“The Kremlin likely intends to recruit military personnel as candidates to a greater extent than is usual even for a wartime country,” it said.
Although Western analysts have said that the Kremlin will manipulate the votes to score the results it wants, the election is still considered a chance for ordinary Russians to voice their dissent or approval of the war, since United Russia dominates almost all of the country’s regional and city assemblies.
Even the Kremlin’s own polls have shown that Putin’s popularity has dipped as the war has continued, particularly in September when he ordered the first mobilisation in Russia since the Second World War.
Since then, the Kremlin’s propaganda machine has been working tirelessly to pin the blame on both the West and Ukraine.
Elections are also due to take place in the occupied parts of Ukraine that were annexed by Putin in September last year.