Russian troops ordered to attack Ukraine harder to boost Putins election hopes

Russian soldiers have been ordered to attack Ukraine with even more gusto in a sick attempt by Vladimir Putin to boost his election hopes by impressing hardline voters.

It comes as Putin has said he will run for president again in the March 2024 election, which would be a fifth term in office for the 71-year-old. And he wants to use his invasion of Ukraine as the centrepiece of his election campaign, according to The Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

And he wants his troops going at it hammer and tongs despite the "most challenging" winter conditions. The weather in Vdiivka near Bakhmut in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, the focus of Russian attention, is currently -1 but feels -9 and is only getting worse.

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"Russian forces are under pressure to fully seize and maintain the initiative into the early months of 2024 prior to the upcoming March Russian presidential elections," the ISW said.

The Ministry of Defence has said that the battle in Vdiivka is the deadliest of the year with Russia losing up to 1,000 soldiers daily.

Meanwhile, Putin is eligible to seek two more six-year terms after his term expires next year. This means that he could feasibly remain in power until 2036, surpassing even Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union for 29 years, as Russia's longest ruler.

The election will be held on 17 March and the winner will be inaugurated in May.

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Prominent critics who could challenge him on the ballot are either in jail or living abroad, and most independent media have been banned.

Prominent opposition leader Alexei Navalny urged his supporters, from his prison cell, in an online statement to vote for anyone but Putin. He said last week: "Putin views this election as a referendum on approval of his actions.

"A referendum on approval of the war. Let’s disrupt his plans and make it happen so that no one on March 17 is interested in the rigged result, but that all of Russia saw and understood: the will of the majority is that Putin must leave."

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