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‘Parroting’ Putin leaves Lithuanian PM red-faced

Ingrida Simonyte had to change her presidential campaign slogan, which resembled the one used by the Russian leader in 2018

A presidential candidate in Lithuania has had to change her campaign slogan, after people pointed out that it closely resembled the one used by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018.

The campaign team of Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte, who is running for the office of president in May, said the similarity was the product of “elementary human oversight.”

Her slogan was “Strong president – strong nation.” It used the femenative form of the title in the Lithuanian language. Putin campaigned six years ago with the slogan “Strong president – strong Russia.”

“The wording as it is now has certain associations,” Simonyte’s campaign chief, Mindaugas Linge, told the local media on Sunday, as he announced the change. “Using it is probably inappropriate. The same idea can be expressed in another way.”

The candidate herself has downplayed claims she was “parroting” Putin. She said that “candidates win elections, not slogans,” and added that voters should rather be concerned about contenders “who want to be like Mr. Putin.”

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FILE PHOTO: Kybartai station, Lithuania.
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The Russian leader is widely reviled among Lithuanian political elites, who regard him as a dictator and claim he would gladly conquer their country, if given the opportunity. Moscow has described this notion as absurd.

Criticizing things by associating them with Putin is a common tactic in the West. For example, the same year the Russian president used the slogan, British media used this rhetorical device to warn about the dangers of a popular Russian kids cartoon show.

Its protagonist, a little girl named Masha, was deemed to be acting like the Russian president. “Masha is feisty, even rather nasty, but also plucky. She punches above her slight weight. It’s not far-fetched to see her as Putinesque,” Professor Anthony Glees of the University of Buckingham, an intelligence expert, said of the popular ‘Masha and the Bear’ animated series in an interview with The Times.

The head of the cartoon’s production studio, Dmitry Loveyko, responded to the claim by saying “A great deal of irony is required to comment on such statements.”

READ MORE: Beloved cartoon characters Masha and the Bear to appear on Russian commemorative coins 

While Simonyte has dropped her “Putinesque” slogan, the Russian president retains a place in her messaging.

“Putin is betting on cracks in Western unity and fatigue. We will not step back, as that would allow him to take another aggressive step forward, like many times before,” she wrote on X (formerly Twitter) on Monday, sharing a photo of her shaking hands with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk.

March 05, 2024 at 02:37PM

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