A group of celebrities on Dec. 16 nominated Russian dictator Vladimir Putin as a presidential candidate in the March 15-17, 2024 election, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Putin's nomination is a formal procedure in his plans to get a landslide victory during an election in which no genuine opposition will be allowed, and voting is likely to be heavily rigged.
His most prominent opponent, Alexei Navalny, has been banned from participating in elections and jailed on trumped-up charges. He is expected to be in prison until the late 2040s.
The Kremlin has been hiding Navalny's whereabouts for more than a week, and concerns about his safety are mounting. In 2020, Putin's subordinates from Russia’s Federal Security Service attempted to kill Navalny by poisoning him with a Novichok nerve agent, according to an investigation by the Insider, Bellingcat, CNN and Der Spiegel.
The group that nominated Putin consists of well-known pro-Putin figures such as Mikhail Kuznetsov, head of Putin’s political coalition All-Russia People's Front, and Andrey Turchak, secretary general of the United Russia party in which Putin is the de-facto leader.
The group also includes pro-Kremlin pop singer Yaroslav Dronov, also known as Shaman; Tatyana Navka, an actress and the wife of Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov, and Jeffrey Monson, a U.S.-born boxer who has become a pro-Kremlin regional lawmaker in Russia.
Another member of the group is Artyom Zhoga, a Russian proxy fighter who has fought against Ukrainian troops and is currently the self-proclaimed parliament speaker at the Russian occupation government in Ukraine's Donetsk Oblast.
Putin announced his presidential run on Dec. 8 after Zhoga asked him about the election at an award ceremony at the Kremlin.
Putin, who will seek his fifth term in office, needs to collect 300,000 voter signatures to register as an independent candidate.
"United Russia is the president's party; he formed it; he is our leader; and, of course, our entire party machine, all our regional and local branches, and over 3.5 million party members will take an active part in the election campaign," Turchak said.
In 2020 Russia held a rigged vote to approve constitutional amendments allowing Putin to run for two more presidential terms after his current one expires in 2024. The vote effectively made Putin, who has been in power since 1999, dictator for life.
According to Russian-born election specialist Alexander Kireyev, the 2020 vote was the most falsified one in Russia’s history since 1991. Based on a mathematical analysis of official data, he estimated the amount of rigged votes at 20 million.