The new Stalin

Russia's President Vladimir Putin attends a ceremony to present Gold Star medals to service members, bearing the title of Hero of Russia and involved in the country's military campaign in Ukraine, on the eve of Heroes of the Fatherland Day at the St. George Hall of the Grand Kremlin Palace in Moscow, Russia, December 8, 2023. Sputnik/Valeriy Sharifulin/Pool via REUTERS

On Friday, Vladimir Putin took steps to extend his authoritative and unwavering control over Russia for at least another six years, officially declaring his candidacy in the upcoming presidential election in March, a victory he is almost guaranteed to secure.

Putin is expected to face minimal opposition on the election ballot. At 71, he has twice leveraged constitutional amendments to potentially remain in power until his mid-80s, surpassing even the longevity of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. In 2008, he temporarily stepped aside to become prime minister due to term limits but retained influence, and subsequent amendments extended presidential terms to six years and reset term counts to begin in 2024.

The announcement of Putin’s candidacy for the March 17 election was made after a Kremlin award ceremony, characterized by Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as “spontaneous” remarks following appeals from war veterans and others. In a video released by the Kremlin, Putin acknowledged contemplating the decision over time but affirmed, “I will run for president of the Russian Federation.” The announcement was made in a subdued manner, possibly part of the Kremlin’s effort to highlight Putin’s modesty and focus on his job rather than engaging in loud campaigning.

Despite initiating a costly war in Ukraine, resulting in numerous casualties and internal attacks, Putin continues to enjoy broad support after nearly 25 years in power. The conflict sparked speculation about Putin’s grip on power when mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin briefly rebelled in June. However, Putin emerged unscathed, and Prigozhin’s subsequent death in a mysterious plane crash reinforced the perception of Putin’s absolute control.

Approximately 80% of the population reportedly approves of Putin’s performance, though this support may stem from genuine approval or a climate of reluctance to criticize the leader due to his crackdown on opposition.



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