Vladimir Putin at the Heroes of Russia ceremony, the Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, December 8, 2023
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 1511 GMT:
One person has been killed and another wounded in a Russian drone attack on Beryslav in the Kherson region in southern Ukraine.
UPDATE 1153 GMT:
The European Council and European Parliament have approved a crackdown on companies from Russia and Belarus importing Russian gas into Europe.
The proposal would stop the companies buying import capacity at European Union import terminals and pipelines. Owners of gas import infrastructure can sever their ties with the companies without the risk of financial penalties for breaking contracts.
The EU still gets about 10% of its gas from Russia, most of it imported via tankers as liquefied natural gas. Some member states such as Austria and Hungary are more reliant on Russian supplies.
UPDATE 1140 GMT:
Russia’s Interior Ministry have added Russian American journalist and author Masha Gessen to their wanted list and opened a criminal case over “spreading false information about the Russian army”.
Russian media said last month that the criminal case against Gessen was because of an interview with prominent Russian journalist Yury Dud, released on YouTube in September 2022 and viewed more than 6.5 million times.
Gessen and Dud discuss the atrocities by Russian armed forces against civilians in Bucha, near Kyiv, in the opening weeks of Vladimir Putin’s invasion.
UPDATE 1131 GMT:
As Republican legislators continue to hold up further US assistance to Kyiv, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska has warned that Ukrainians are in “mortal danger” if western countries halt financial support.
Zelenska told the BBC:
In simple words, we cannot get tired of this situation, because if we do, we die. And if the world gets tired, they will simply let us die.
It hurts us greatly to see the signs that the passionate willingness to help may fade. It is a matter of life for us. Therefore, it hurts to see that.
UPDATE 0819 GMT:
The White House has shrugged at Vladimir Putin’s announcement of his candidacy for re-election.
National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said, “Well, that’s going to be one humdinger of a horse race, isn’t it?”
Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement:
We call on the international community to resolutely condemn Russia‘s intention to hold Presidential elections in the occupied Ukrainian territories, and to impose sanctions on those involved in their organization and conduct.
The Ministry warned countries against sending observers to the “pseudo-elections” and said saying offenders will “face criminal responsibility”.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Vladimir Putin announced on Friday that he will stage his “re-election” on March 17.
The declaration was far from a shock, given that Putin has overseen the revision of the Russian Constitution to allow him to hold the Presidency until 2036.
However, the manner of the announcement was a surprise. Putin had been expected to declare on December 14, during his live “conversation” with the nation.
Instead, after a Kremlin ceremony naming Heroes of Russia, Speaker of the “Parliament” of the Russian proxy “Donetsk People’s Republic” in eastern Ukraine, war veteran Artem Zhoga approached Putin with a request that he stand in the election.
I will run for the post of President of the Russian Federation,” Putin replied.
Russian officials said the announcement was “virtually a spontaneous step” by Putin, with staff not having the time to “work through and arrange it”: “The President wanted it that way.”
The US-based Institute for the Study of War assesses that the staging “indicates that [Putin’s] campaign may focus on Russia’s war in Ukraine”. In his request to Putin, Zhoga said Russia needs Putin to “integrate occupied Ukrainian territories and restore peace”.
But an anonymous Russian official questioned Putin’s tactics:
Well, at least he didn’t [step forward] against the backdrop of people in masks — and that’s a blessing. Although the signal is not the most pleasant, we will continue to fight.
Did the President himself want to present it so clearly? Honestly, I don’t know, it’s more of an impulsive, spontaneous desire. He himself lives in the “special military operation”, and thinks that the Russians live in it.
At least Russian commander was not impressed. The leader of the Vostok Battalion, Alexander Khodakovsky, said that while the result of the elections isalready known, the ”process needs to be arranged appropriately”. One Russian milblogger claimed that Russians are more concerned about the rising price of eggs than Putin’s announcement.
Another source “close to the Kremlin” said that its officials will build Putin’s campaign around “peaceful projects” that should “calm down” voters.