As Russia gears up for a presidential election next month, one school in the North Caucasus region of Daghestan has not held back in showing its support for incumbent Vladimir Putin.
“School Number One in the village of Belidzhi in the Derbent district organized a campaign on February 13 to support Putin,” the district government posted on its VKontakte page.
The post, which has since been removed, was accompanied by several photos showing children inside a classroom holding pro-Putin posters.
“We Vote For Putin,” one poster read. “Putin Is Our President,” read another.
A female student is shown holding a placard: “Thank You, Putin, For Everything.” Another read: “Thank You, Putin, For Existing.”
The photos also showed a female teacher holding a poster that read: “Russia Elects Putin.”
Russian law bans using minors and state resources, including co-opting public workers, for election campaigns.
School Number One Principal Ruslan Bairamov told Current Time TV, the Russian-language network run by RFE/RL in cooperation with VOA, that it was the children’s idea: “The children themselves wanted this and they asked the teacher to organize this gathering.”
The principal said he wasn’t aware that the law prohibited exploiting minors for election campaigns. “Really? We won’t organize such things anymore, then,” Bairamov added.
According to a map of election violations, a project run by the election-monitoring group Golos, a similar pro-Putin event was recently held in Derbent’s Gadzhibaev school.
Putin is widely expected to win the election, which opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has described as nothing more than a reappointment of the incumbent. Russia’s Central Election Commission has barred Navalny from running, citing his criminal conviction in a controversial embezzlement case.
Golos has claimed that state-controlled TV networks in recent weeks have aired dozens of segments that constitute “illegal campaigning” for Putin ahead of the March 18 election.