You won’t find guns or tanks in Putin’s Army, but you may see a fair amount of bare female flesh. This new Russian activist group is composed exclusively of young women using their looks to lobby for Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s re-election as president. The initiative has many other Russian women fuming.
 
It all started with a promotional video featuring a gaggle of pretty Russian girls urging their peers to upload videos explaining how much they loved Vladmir Putin and what, or who, they would be willing to ‘tear to pieces’ for him. The idea is to form an ‘army’ of women ready to ‘protect’ Putin from unfair criticism. The clip closes with a shot of the voluptuous-chested presenter tearing off her T-shirt, after promising an iPad 2 to the creators of the best pro-Putin videos. The clip prompted a series of  video uploads on YouTube , as well as 4,000 new memberships on the Putin’s Army group on Russian social networking site Vkontakte.
 
Promotional video for Putin's Army. Video posted on YouTube.
 
Not all Russians are amused – and particularly not Russian women. Many believe the movement is a publicity stunt organised by the Kremlin itself – and a sexist one at that. Although members of ‘Putin’s Army’ deny any government involvement, Russian newspapers reported that during their first public action on July 22 (a ‘conscription’ operation in Moscow calling on female volunteers to sign up for the army), several of the prime minister’s spin doctors were spotted in the background
 
In response, an ‘Anti-Putin’s Army’ group has also been created on Vkontakte. So far it has only attracted 1,500 members, but they are clearly riled up. On July 22, they showed up at the Moscow ‘conscription’ shouting “Russia, Putin, Tits!” and “For an iPad, I’ll tear anything to pieces!”
 
As for the men who showed up in the hope of seeing a little skin, they were in for a disappointment. Only one of the ‘conscripts’ actually tore off her T-shirt, revealing not her breasts but a sober black bra. Perhaps Putin’s Army has something to learn from the Ukranian feminist group FEMEN, which is famous for stripping for its causes?
 
 
The first ‘Putin’s Army’ video submission: this kick-boxing woman says that she likes Putin as a man, not as a celebrity. She likes how he smiles and how he walks, and she has something of a crush on him. And, she adds, she’s ready to tear anyone to pieces for him.

"They say they like Putin because he’s ‘cool’. But every sound person understands it’s not enough for a president to be ‘cool’."

Nastya Surguch is a management student in Moscow and member of the ‘Anti Putin’s Army’ group.
 
I don’t even know where to start with this whole business. Maybe these girls aren’t stupid, but the ones who paid them definitely are. It’s pretty stupid to waste money on something so obviously short-sighted.
 
I went to one of the movement’s events in Moscow and asked these ‘clever and beautiful’ girls, as they call themselves, why we should elect Putin for a third mandate. They all gave pretty much the same answer: “Because he’s cool”. I think that speaks for itself. Every sound person – perhaps even these girls – can understand that it’s not enough for a president to be ‘cool’."
 
The event was supposed to be striking and patriotic – and there was clearly a considerable amount of money pumped into it. But it was pretty pathetic. That’s often the way things are in Russia today. I’m not being nostalgic and saying things were better before, but even in the bloody years under Stalin the country wasn’t so lawless.”
Post written with freelance journalist Ostap Karmodi.