Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging an outright propaganda campaign in Crimea ahead of Russia’s presidential election on Sunday, despite assurances he will clench a fourth six-year term.
In television segments cited by The Washington Post, the Russian government pushed images of rocket fire, grieving women and same-sex weddings. Aired from a broadcast station Russia seized in 2014 during its annexation of Crimea, the campaign visualizes a world without Putin—meant to drum up support for his candidacy.
“It’s necessary to create maximum turnout,” Dmitry Taran, host of a television show called Information Warfare, told the Post. “Vote for whoever you want but turn out—in order to shut up all the international intelligence services that are sitting and waiting for the 19th.”
Other smaller stations funded by the Kremlin have cropped up in Crimea as well, including the broadcast network Millet—a substitute for an independent Ukrainian channel that has since relocated to Kiev.
“While Ukraine kills its own peaceful citizens,” a Millet announcer said on-air this week, “the Russian Federation is building innovation cities, innovation centers, spaceports, unique transportation infrastructure, hospitals, schools and kindergartens.”
Such nationalist rhetoric was displayed during Putin’s campaign stop to Crimea this week, where attendees praised the candidate before Russian broadcast networks.
Russia’s presidential race is largely seen as predetermined, especially since the only candidate capable of mounting a serious campaign was barred from running. After repeated arrests by Russian police, opposition leader Alexei Navalny was removed from the election ballot due to fraud convictions—a move many of his supporters view as politically motivated and orchestrated by Putin’s regime.
Seven candidates are running against the Russian president, including the reality television star and former Playboy model Ksenia Sobchak—who is suspected to be Putin’s goddaughter. None of the candidates have polled above seven percent in pre-election surveys, according to Reuters.
While most analysts predict Putin will easily win in a landslide victory this weekend, higher voter turnout in Crimea sends a strong message to the international community: Putin’s election is “legitimate” and supported by Crimea’s occupied population.