NewsPutin's Orthodox Christmas dinner with military families: A political strategy and propaganda triumph?

Putin's Orthodox Christmas dinner with military families: A political strategy and propaganda triumph?

Vladimir Putin met with military families.
Vladimir Putin met with military families.
Images source: © PAP | PAP/EPA/GAVRIIL GRIGOROV / SPUTNIK / KREMLIN POOL

12:26 PM EST, January 8, 2024

Journalists from the independent news outlet Agientstwo took a detailed look at the highly-publicized propaganda media meeting of Putin with the families of the military. After analyzing footage from the two-hour meeting, they confirmed that the family of Orthodox clergyman Mikhail Vasilyev, the former head of Russia's missile troops church, was the most prominently represented. He was killed in Ukraine in November 2022. Now his widow and five children sat at the holiday table.

After Vasilyev's death, the media reflected on his responses to mothers' concerns about their sons being drafted for war. He suggested they simply have more children so that it wouldn't be as "painful and frightening" for them when a son left for the front. Posthumously, the clergyman was honored with the Hero of Russia title.

War-supporting activists

According to the news portal, two other widows invited to the meeting with Putin are activists of organizations uniting military families and endorsing the war.

Natalia Machonina, who leads the Committee of Warrior Families of the Homeland, advises the head of the Balashikha administration. She also participated in a mock election in Moscow Oblast, according to Agientstwo.

Another meeting participant, Ksenia Semionova from Tambov, represents a state foundation named Defenders of the Homeland. All the women featured in the images from the Kremlin had husbands who were posthumously decorated by Putin for their participation in the war.

Worship and a formal dinner

The Kremlin's statement reported that Vladimir Putin met with soldiers' families at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, near Moscow. The invited guests attended a holiday dinner and a religious service at the church on the residence's grounds. In the official report, guests were introduced as families of "participants in the special military operation."

This Christmas dinner wasn't Putin's first meeting with military families. Similar guests have been carefully selected in the past, Agientstwo emphasizes.

The American Institute for War Studies (ISW) suggests in its recent report that Putin is leveraging these meetings in his campaign for the upcoming 2024 presidential election. "Russian military personnel and their families are a significant electorate, and their public endorsement of Putin is vital for the Kremlin to portray the Russian society as overwhelmingly backing the war," the analysts specify.

The meeting of Putin with military families was sharply contrasted by protests from mothers and wives of soldiers drafted to the front. The women's primary appeal was that their loved ones conscripted into the military should not remain indefinitely on the frontline.

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