As Putin stays mum on his intentions to run for a new term as president, supporters are growing increasingly vocal. And bizarre.
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MOSCOW - The cult of personality spawning around Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken a biblical turn. In the region of Nijni Novgorod, 400 kilometers east of Moscow, the still powerful former president is now being worshipped by a sect that sees him as the reincarnation of the apostle Saint Paul.
In the Bible, Paul was a military chief who persecuted Christians before preaching the gospel. Putin, who worked for the KGB before becoming the righteous Russian president, has had a similar career trajectory, the supporters say. Even inside the Kremlin, Putin is considered a holy figure "sent by God to Russia in these difficult times," according to Vladislav Surkov, first deputy chief of staff of the president of the Russian Federation. This supposed saint-like status comes as speculation swirls that he will run for a new term as president.
This cult dedicated to Putin has no limits, high or low: food and vodka are branded with his name. In the most attention-grabbling twist of all, a group of female students have created an army of supporters named "Armia Putina," which now features a video clip of one of the students tearing off her shirt in front of the camera. She calls on every "beautiful and clever" girl to do the same in support of the prime minister.
Some Russian political analysts take a dim view of this female army. To Constantin Kojevnikov, the video clip is "vulgar." He says: "The viewers are encouraged to develop a political opinion but all the clip does is to show them a pair of boobs." For others, this operation is mainly a public relations exercise launched by Putin youth organizations, and secretly financed by the Kremlin.
Read full story in French by Marie Jego (subscription may be required)