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Russia vote: Influencers claim offered up to $100k for Putin support

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  • Russia is holding a national referendum that could result in President Vladimir Putin being able to continue running for office through 2036. Wednesday is the last day of voting.
  • Some Russian influencers told The New York Times they were offered money to urge their followers to take part in the vote. 
  • The decision of some influencers to abstain from posting may suggest Putin’s popularity is falling.
  • The Times said it could not independently verify the claims, but said they were “an indicator of public mood.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Russian influencers claim they were offered as much as $100,000 to write posts calling on fellow citizens to vote in the country’s national referendum, which could see President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power tighten for more than a decade.

Russia is currently holding a nationwide vote on constitutional amendments that would allow Putin to extend his administration through to 2036. Under the current rules he is on his last term, which expires 2024.

Voting, which started in some regions on June 25, ends on Wednesday.

Video bloggers have been going public about the offers they’ve received to write posts about Putin’s proposed amendments to the constitution.

One Russian video blogger, Ksenia Hoffman, told The New York Times on Tuesday that she turned down an offer in March to write an Instagram post about the referendum, saying she feared showing support of the Kremlin could hurt her image and have a “serious consequence for ad sales.”

“The public mood has really changed,” Hoffman told the newspaper. 

putin casts vote

Putin casts his vote in the 2020 Russian constitutional referendum on July 1, 2020.


Alexei DruzhininTASS via Getty



Elena Sheidlina, an Instagram influencer with more than 4.6 million followers, echoed this concern.

She told The Times that “it’s clear that the reputation of an artist who is in direct, public contact with the authorities becomes the target of audience attacks, and this started happening very recently.”

And Erik Kituashvili, a popular car blogger, recorded a video saying he was offered $100,000 to urge his fans to vote, according to The Times. He said that the influencers who took the money “sold out their motherland.” 

Katya Konasova, who reviews beauty products and online shopping sites on YouTube, said in a video that she was promised $14,000 if she said how the amendments would be good for “motherhood and childhood.”

The Times pointed out that the claims “could not be independently verified” but were nonetheless “an indicator of the public mood” and how it has turned against Putin, who has been in office since 2012 and was prime minister for five years off and on before that. 

Russia is currently grappling with the world’s third-largest coronavirus outbreak, and many have criticized Putin for his handling of the crisis.

Putin appears to have tried to drum up popularity in recent days by holding a massive military parade in Moscow’s Red Square and opening a massive cathedral to honor its armed forces.

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