Russia’s Vladimir Putin has spent the past year ordering the genocide of Ukrainians and sending hundreds of thousands of his own citizens to die for him, but the Kremlin has now apparently sent a not-so-subtle hint to soldiers that they are meant to worship him.
Russian draftees from the Perm region sent to likely death in Ukraine say they were delighted to receive an Easter care package from Putin’s political party—until they realized it contained a quasi-religious icon featuring the face of the Russian leader.
When the package arrived, “We thought, they sent us something, they haven’t forgotten [about us], the [Easter] holiday is coming soon. But it turned out that it’s not about the holiday after all. No matter how much of a patriot of my homeland I may be, this is already complete bullshit,” one soldier told the local outlet Perm 36.6.
Photos of the “gift” show Putin featured in a mock religious icon, which are typically small paintings that traditionally depict saints. In case there were any doubt about the purpose of the memento, a note was scrawled on the packaging in large letters and bright red ink instructing troops that it was “for prayers.”
The latest religious propaganda, reportedly distributed by Putin’s ruling party, United Russia, comes after draftees reported receiving holy “protection candles” that promised to shield them from bullets last month.
It also comes as reports multiply of fed-up troops and their families personally calling out Putin as they complain of a bungled war effort.
Several families of men drafted from the autonomous republic of Tatarstan appealed directly to Putin in a video released Tuesday, saying commanders confiscated the men’s documents and phones before forcing them to go on a suicide mission that military leadership knew they wouldn’t come back from.
The commanders, according to one family member, didn’t even try to hide the true nature of the mission to reluctant soldiers, telling the whole regiment: “You die and Putin will send new ones.”