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'Putin's Army' tries sexy messaging ahead of 2012 elections

The social-networking phenomenon is urging women to tear their clothes off for Vladimir Putin. It's part of a bizarre range of PR activities rushing into a vacuum of real political competition.

By Correspondent / July 18, 2011

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, right, and Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov are seen during the cabinet meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on Wednesday, July 13.

Alexei Nikolsky/RIA Novosti/AP

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Moscow

It calls itself "Putin's Army," already has more than 1,200 followers on Russia's main social networking site Vkontakte, and is urging young women to "tear" their clothes off as a message to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to step up and run for president in elections that are now barely eight months off.

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Neither Mr. Putin nor President Dmitry Medvedev will openly state their intentions for the upcoming polls, and some very odd things have lately been rushing into the vacuum where normal political competition might otherwise be.

No one knows who is behind "Putin's Army," but its professionally-made video of a young woman praising Putin and preparing to rip off her T-shirt has gone viral since being posted last week on the blog of Kirill Schitov, a young pro-Putin deputy of the Moscow city Duma.

"Hi, my name is Diana. I’m a student. I’m mad about a man who has changed the life of our country," says the video's narrator, presumably the leggy blonde walking purposefully through central Moscow. "He’s a first-rate politician and a chic guy. He’s Vladimir Putin.... There are millions who adore him, who trust him.

"But there are a few who hurl dirt at him. Maybe they’re scared? Or maybe they're just weak? Because they’ll never be in his place."

The main point is to announce a contest for the best video of a woman "tearing" something for Putin, to be posted on the Vkontakte page. The winner, it says, will get an iPad 2.

The sexy messaging is the latest creative attempt to build up Putin ahead of March 2012 elections, following a superhero comic strip and James Bond-style posters. Some analysts say it could backfire, and thus may be the work of detractors. But most people attribute it to Putin supporters, possibly people associated with the rapidly growing Popular Front that he recently started.

"This video is the work of a professional team, and that doesn't come cheap," says Rustem Agadamov, author of the popular blog Drugoi. "It's similar to some other things that have been going on, and there's no doubt that such things don't happen without the authorities' approval."

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