SportsStar skier Stepanova recruits sports icons for "Putin's Team" amid election preparations

Star skier Stepanova recruits sports icons for "Putin's Team" amid election preparations

The photo features Weronika Stiepanowa. In the background, there is a calendar with Vladimir Putin.
The photo features Weronika Stiepanowa. In the background, there is a calendar with Vladimir Putin.
Images source: © Licensor
1:12 PM EST, December 21, 2023, updated: 1:28 PM EST, December 21, 2023

Presidential elections in Russia are slated for March 17, 2024, and Putin has already announced his candidacy. The politician, who is often labeled a war criminal, has started campaign preparations. He will reportedly receive assistance from a group named "Putin's Team" — 13 former and current Russian athletes who openly endorse Putin's candidacy.

Russian cross-country skiing icons Elena Vialbe and Alexander Legkov are part of this group, as announced by Veronika Stepanova. This Olympic champion in the 2022 relay continues to voice her support for Putin, particularly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Instagram, Stepanova recently expressed her excitement over Vialbe and Legkov joining "Putin's Team". Besides her zealous advocacy, the post took a propagandistic tone as it featured a photo of her next to a calendar with Putin's picture.

"These individuals have seen both humble huts and grand palaces. They are a unique breed that wins every competition. They now publicly endorse the President because he is akin to them — a winner guiding the country on the right course," she wrote.

Going forward in her post, Stepanova's support for Putin's policies verged on fanaticism. She depicted the autocratic leader as the best thing to happen to Russia.

"I, as an athlete, am only 22 years old, and my sports career is just starting. The perks of my life depend solely on my performance, not the volume of my statements. But I will not stay quiet in these crucial times for Russia. Today, I am proud to be a skier, to have such admirable leaders and colleagues, and that Russia has a president like Putin," she concluded with grandiloquence.

Western media often refer to Stepanova as "Putin's Darling" following the Russian invasion of Ukraine due to her astonishing views. She fiercely criticized the International Olympic Committee and the International Ski Federation (FIS) for banning Russian skiers from competitions.

Upon the FIS's decision to allow Russians to compete as neutral athletes, not representing Russia, Stepanova insisted they either return on equal terms or not return at all. In October 2022, she asked the FIS to prohibit American athletes from participating in races. She reasoned that the death penalty, still in effect in certain US states, is considered "absolute barbarism" in Europe.

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