Celebrities and the adoration of Russian President Putin | Sputnik election news


In 2003, Yulia Volkova, a member of the Russian pop duo TATU, sang the famous song Not Gonna Get Us about two female students in love at the MTV Music Awards in California.

The footage of the event has been viewed millions of times around the world, and according to “Vice” magazine, the performance “brings female queerness to the forefront of the mainstream”.

Last year, Volkova appeared in a very different video.

In it, she talked about her plan to run for the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, with the ruling United Russia Party in the upcoming legislative elections on September 19.

“I will join the Duma with the United Russia Party to ensure that real, not verbal, decisions are made to benefit most of our citizens,” said Volkova, the 35-year-old mother of two children. On the 13th, the video shows the Orthodox cross.

This video was prepared for the primaries of united Russia in Ivanovo in the western region, which is known for its poverty and severe male shortage.

Volkova lost to an unknown male official.

Volkova (left) intends to participate in Russia’s upcoming United Russia Party legislative elections, but lost in the primary elections [File: Andrej Isakovic/AFP]

But her failure did not deter other Russian celebrities who wanted to become politicians-mainly in support of Vladimir Putin’s votes, either for the unification of Russia or the so-called “systematic opposition”, in the name of three parties. He opposed the ruling behemoth, but never criticized the Russian president.

The Kremlin welcomes these celebrities with open arms.

Their smiling faces on TV, billboards and handouts Suppress dissent This situation intensified before the Duma election.

But activists are very skeptical of the sincerity of pro-Kremlin celebrities.

“I doubt that they will not defend the interests of Russian citizens, but pursue their own, selfish interests,” said Violetta Grudina, an opposition activist in the northwestern city of Murmark. Has faced detention, interrogation and defamation charges. After announcing her decision to participate in the municipal elections.

“This is how the Kremlin creates spoilers and creates the illusion of choice,” Grudina told Al Jazeera.

Limited ambition

For celebrities, the Duma is not a springboard for mayor, governor, or presidential campaigns.

A campaign manager who has worked in Washington, Moscow, Berlin and Minsk said that in many ways it is a safe haven, a source of propaganda and countless benefits, including envelopes containing large amounts of cash.

“In the West, politics is only an activity area and a service area, but in Russia, politics is a way of life,” said Vitalis Klyarov, who participated in the elections of Barack Obama and Bernie Sanders. Promoted opposition candidate In Russia, he was imprisoned and tortured in Belarus after working with opposition candidates in the presidential election last year.

He told Al Jazeera that Russian celebrities want to enter politics “not because they want to serve, but because they want to live a good life.”

Putin methodically cleared the objections against his rule by imprisoning opponents and suppressing them. [Sputnik/Sergei Savostyanov/Pool via Reuters]

Experts say that while the weaker pro-Putin parties recruit celebrities to increase their support rate, the United Russia Party needs their support to legitimize its inevitable victory.

This is inevitable because the party has been accused of voting rigging by election monitors, critics, and hundreds of thousands for years, who participated in the largest protest since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 a decade ago.

“It is not afraid of losing because the Central Election Commission will pretend that they have won,” former opposition lawmaker Gennady Gudkov told Al Jazeera.

“But it is desperate to legitimize yourself in a certain way in the eyes of the public,” he said.

Artists and war criminals

This year’s list of political figures is sloppy, including a rapper who calls himself Puulent, reality TV star and several pop singers.

One is Denis Maidanov. His patriotic songs include “Russia, go forward!” and “Who are the Russians”.

“Many parents say that they use my songs to educate their children, which is a sign of their trust,” he told the Communist Youth League Pravda in early June.

Another aspiring legislator is Zakhar Prilepin, a former activist and novelist of the National Bolshevik Party. He advocated the idea that the Kremlin was once banned as “extremism”. Annex Crimea and the Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine and Kazakhstan.

Prilepin’s 2006 novel Sankya was hailed as the “manifesto” of anti-Kremlin youth, and was released in 2008 Nationalist party With the fledgling anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny.

But after Moscow annexed Crimea and supported Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists, many Bolsheviks swore allegiance to Putin — and joined the rebels.

Prilepin led a team of “volunteers” who served as “advisors” to a separatist leader who was bombed in 2018 and pleaded guilty to war crimes.

“I led a military unit that killed people. There are many of them. No other battalion in Donetsk can match the ratio of my battalion,” he said in an interview in 2019.

‘Systemic opposition’

Last year, Prilepin co-founded the “Truth Party” with actor and Orthodox priest Ivan Okhlobystin. He hopes to restore the death penalty in Russia and crown Putin as the “monarch.”

Then they recruited an international celebrity who was eliminated.

Steven Seagal, the action hero in the Hollywood movies of the 1990s, joined For Truth in December.

After praising him as “one of the greatest living leaders in the world” and supporting the annexation of Crimea, he obtained Putin’s Russian passport in 2016.

In May, For Truth merged with the pro-Putin socialist party A Just Russia. It is the weakest of the three “systematic opposition” parties, with 23 seats in the 450-seat Duma.

However, according to a survey conducted by the Levada Center in March, it may lose them in September because only 5% of Russians want to vote for the party.

Peaceful “veteran”

At the same time, the unification of Russia seems to be a few light years away from this battle for survival.

It has tens of thousands of members, offices in every city and town, and what critics call “administrative resources”. It is a nationwide force that forces government employees, teachers, and medical workers to vote for its candidates. system.

In May, it reached a “cooperation agreement” with the Donbass Volunteer League, which is fighting for separatists.

“We not only count on your support, but also on your maximum participation in the election,” said Andrey Turchak, Secretary-General of the United Russian Federation, at a meeting of “veterans” on May 10.

“We have to prove that not only can we fight and defend our homeland on the battlefield, but we can also do something in a peaceful life,” the head of the alliance, Alexander Borody, responded.

Borody is best known for his two months as the “Chairman” of the “Donetsk People’s Republic” in 2014.

Ukraine accused him and his “government” of carrying out thousands of killings, kidnappings, deportations and expropriations.

But Borody feels good at home-and wants his comrades to join the political mainstream.

“Russian volunteers must be in power,” he said in a video posted on the United Russia website.





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