In spite of a faltering domestic economy, Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently experiencing record high approval ratings — at 89 percent for the month of June — according to national polling data from independent research firm the Levada Center.
Putin's popularity rose even as incomes in the country dropped for the first time since he took office in 2000 and as the country weathers a harsh recession, spurred by a combination of Western sanctions against the country and tanking oil prices.
Such high approval ratings are attributed to the overwhelmingly positive coverage of Putin in Russian media — particularly the framing of the conflict in Ukraine as a Western attempt to hurt Russia by state-run television stations and media outlets. Levada Center's Analytical Director Led Gudkov attributed the leader's public opinion to television propaganda.
"This is a very aggressive and false propaganda," he told the Associated Press. "All alternative channels, therefore all alternative points of view, assessments are pushed out of the public sphere."
News of Putin's approval numbers comes as the Russian president stressed the importance of a strong military near its borders during a Kremlin meeting with Russian military academy graduates on Thursday. Putin said he will continue modernizing the country's military programs, including the purchase of large numbers of new weapons over the next several years.
A "powerful army equipped with modern weapons is the guarantor of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia," Putin said during the meeting.
These sentiments fall in line with the Russian president's plan to put 22 trillion rubles (more than $400 billion) towards dozens of navy ships, hundreds of new planes, tanks, missiles, and other weapons by 2020.
Despite these plans, Putin stressed that Russia does not have aggressive intentions and is looking to settle the country's disputes solely in the political realm under international law.
A ban on Western agriculture imports was extended by Putin for one year on Wednesday, continuing a retaliatory measure enacted in August 2014 in response to Western sanctions. Food barred under the ban includes pork, vegetables, dairy, and fruit from the US, Canada, the EU, Norway, and Australia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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