The Daily Telegraph

Putin to go it alone in elections to boost ‘wartime leader’ credential­s

- By James Kilner

VLADIMIR PUTIN is planning to ditch the political party he leads and run as an independen­t candidate in the presidenti­al election to boost his “wartime leader” credential­s.

The Kommersant said the 71-year-old will part ways with the United Russia party for a “conservati­ve” campaign based on “pride, confidence and the future”.

“The formation of an initiative group suggests that he will most likely run in the elections as a self-nominated candidate,” the newspaper reported, quoting sources in the Presidenti­al Administra­tion. An “initiative group” is assembled to allow candidates to be nominated for the Russian presidenti­al elections.

Reuters reported that Putin has already decided to run in the election, slated for Mar 17, but the Kremlin has not commented.

Putin stood as an independen­t candidate in the 2018 Russian presidenti­al election but has been considerin­g standing for his United Russia party next year, as he did in 2012. Analysts say he is keen to be seen as one of the alltime great Russian leaders and wants his invasion of Ukraine to be his crowning achievemen­t but when candidates from United Russia campaigned on a war platform in September, they were not greeted with a warm response.

Dr Stephen Hall, associate professor of Russian politics at Bath University, said United Russia has become increasing­ly unpopular which is another factor influencin­g Putin. “A difficult election should not be made harder with the United Russia millstone,” he said.

Putin has been Russian President since 2000, except for the period between 2008 and 2012 when he served as prime minister to meet constituti­onal requiremen­ts.

It came as Russian state media erased reports announcing a retreat to “more favourable positions” on the left bank of the Dnipro River.

Two separate reports of a withdrawal were deleted within minutes, in a highly unusual breakaway from Kremlin propaganda.

Ria Novosti, the state-owned news agency, reported that commanders from Moscow’s Dnepr force had ordered the relocation of its troops.

Another state outlet, Tass, reported that troops from the group were being moved to more favourable positions. Within minutes Ria removed its three news alerts without explanatio­n, while Tass said it had released the informatio­n in error.

State-controlled media outlets often have privileged access to informatio­n before it is released on public platforms.

The Russian defence ministry is known to feed details of troop movements to the agencies, and has previously used them to describe retreats as a shift to a more advantageo­us position.

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