As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda.
CET says it is an educational project to help young people implement their creative potential. The only requirement, said public relations manager Anastasia Melnik, is unconditional support for Putin.
"Whatever Putin does we support," Melnik said. "We have confirmed that more than once with all our actions in the project — for example, postcards, paintings, films. When Putin became president, for the first time we stopped feeling shame for our country. We have acquired pride, confidence, and we are proud of this."
While CET refuses to disclose its financial backers, its agenda is clear. CET brings talented young Russians to Moscow to promote their creative and artistic work, much of which praises Putin or criticizes the United States. There is no questioning of the Kremlin's actions in Ukraine or the annexation of Crimea, which hiked Putin's domestic popularity to an all-time high.
Russia's international image and economy have plummeted along with the currency, the ruble, as Western sanctions on the country have taken a toll. But CET fashion designer Anna Kredenko, who created a clothing line based on the ruble, said she still supports the president and might use his image for her next designs.
“Putin now represents Russia, and, he Is the leader of Russia," she said. "He is a strong personality, and he Is respected all over the world.”
CET member Ilya Galkov styled a card game promoting a popular conspiracy theory that the U.S. State Department is pulling the strings on world leaders and the Russian opposition.
“The leader in our game [Putin] is the most polite man of all represented in the game,” he said.
But some pro-Putin groups are not so polite. The youth group that proceeded CET, Nashi, was infamous for disrupting liberal gatherings and speeches.
An opposition rally was disrupted in mid-January by a new group called Anti-Maidan that vowed further street action. It aims to prevent a Ukraine-style anti-government revolution, which it also blames on the United States, from happening in Russia.