‘Worse than treason’: Putin warns against speculation on nation’s problems ahead of polls

June 27, 2016. From left: Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev at the 15th Convention of the United Russia Party. © Ekaterina Shtukina
Vladimir Putin has called speculation over various difficulties and the deliberate exaggeration of problems “worse than treason” and “the most dangerous things” as he spoke at the election convention of his main political allies, the United Russia party.

The most dangerous thing today is speculation on the current difficulties. I am not talking about the criticism of the authorities – it is necessary, it must be present and it definitely will. I am talking about different things – about lies, distortion of facts and empty promises that are worse than any treason,” Putin told the United Russia convention on Monday.

These promises are backed by nothing but the desire to destabilize the situation, split society and at any cost grab some state power. We must do everything to prevent such development of events,” the Russian president added.

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Putin then reiterated his notion that constructive and honest criticism was beneficial for society, and that the period in the run-up to September’s elections was the right time to voice such criticism. “This is normal and in most cases this is good for the cause,” he said.

The president also praised United Russia as the main consolidating force in Russian society. “It is largely [thanks] to your effort that Russian society has reached an agreement on strategic development issues. This agreement has allowed us to realize deep transformations in the economic and social spheres, to launch national priority projects and a large-scale demographic program,” Putin said.

He backed up his points by comparing the current situation with the dire state of events at the time United Russia was founded in the early 2000s. “You know and remember well what state our country was in back then. It was under threat of break-up, it was like a patchwork from the legal and political perspective and the North Caucasus was literally overwhelmed by anti-Russian terrorist aggression,” Putin said.

A significant part of the economy and some important state institutions fell under the control of oligarchs or, to put it simply, criminal structures,” he added.

You had to change the situation, reinforce the Constitution and in essence, restore the state’s capability and unity, overcome the split in society itself,” Putin told the United Russia convention.

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The Monday convention was the first United Russia event in four years with Putin’s personal participation. At it, party leader Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev presented the key points of the elections program for the September State Duma polls. These included promises not to introduce changes to the pension system, to make the salaries of state officials and managers of state-owned companies dependent on their performance, and to introduce additional taxes for luxury goods and other “excessive consumption.”

Party activists also made public the names of people they wanted to see in the party’s election lists. These included many senior officials and heads of Russian regions, such as the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Crimea, Sergey Aksyonov, the chief prosecutor of Crimea, Natalya Poklonskaya, the commander of airborne troops, Vladimir Shamanov, the leader of the pro-Putin political movement United Popular Front, Stanislav Govorukhin, and others.