Russia’s presidential elections next year could dramatically affect the war in Ukraine, as President Putin seeks to avoid unpopular decisions such as further mobilizations that could undermine his support, western analysts have said.
The latest report from the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) says Putin is almost certain to run for office again, even though he has yet to publicly announce his intention to do so. There is speculation that his unofficial election campaign will begin in November 2023.
Presidential elections in the Russian Federation are scheduled for March 17, 2024
"While elections in Russia are subject to interference and control by the Kremlin, they remain a core tool of political legitimation," the report states.
British intelligence predicts that Putin's election campaign will almost certainly focus on the theme of Russia as a separate civilization that needs protection from external enemies.
The British Ministry of Defense suggests that as the elections approach, the Kremlin will likely aim to minimize unpopular political actions.
"It is therefore highly unlikely that any further mobilization wave will be implemented before the March 2024 presidential election," the intelligence agency notes.
In another report, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) noted recent comments from Igor Girkin (Strelkov), the now-imprisoned former leader of the "DNR" militants, who suggested Putin could seek to avoid any humiliating battlefield defeats by attempting to “freeze” the front lines until the elections.
On Monday, Girkin's wife published a letter he reportedly wrote on September 29. In the letter, the ex-leader of pro-Russian militants claims that a specific faction in the Russian leadership supports freezing the current front line in Ukraine, while another faction supports the continuation of Russian offensive operations.
Girkin expressed a "99%" certainty that the Kremlin would choose to "freeze the front line" before the Russian presidential election.
According to him, Russian forces would likely continue to conduct strategic defense along existing front lines and focus on preventing Ukrainian breakthroughs or achieving "sensitive operational successes."
Girkin also suggested that Russian authorities are likely to gradually increase internal repression in the run-up to the elections.
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