Through War to Power: How Russia Encourages Its Citizens to Kill Ukrainians

June 11, 2024
"Time of Heroes" is a contentious path to power that grants the Russian military of the Russo-Ukraine War preferential access to government positions in Russia.

During his annual speech to the Federal Assembly on February 29, Russia's President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of a new initiative known as "Time of Heroes". This program provides veterans and participants in so-called special military operations in Ukraine (i.e., the Russian full-scale invasion) with priority enrollment rights in postsecondary education as well as access to civilian specializations. "Veterans of the SMO, as well as soldiers and officers who are currently fighting in active units, will be able to apply to participate in the first training stream of a special personnel program - let's call it "Time of Heroes," Putin emphasized.

However, this program is also an attempt to incite people to join the Russian army in the war against Ukraine and, eventually, to build a new political class in Russia, all while fabricating the appearance of support for veterans' reintegration into society. Putin emphasized that military personnel and veterans should take on leadership roles in youth education and development. 

The proposal to allow military members and veterans to take on leadership positions in education and other areas of civilian life in the country has caused a wide resonance. Not only was education prioritized, but veterans were also given opportunities to participate in regional, state, and municipal administration, as well as business and major projects across the country. This step not only acknowledges that the Russian Federation's leadership encourages the willful slaughter of people in Ukraine, but it also fails to explain how military operations experience can be applied to civilian life and administration.

Kremlin propagandists launched their PR blitz

Russian propagandists began to widely praise this effort, projecting an image of elitism and gratitude for protecting the country. The President of the Russian Federation's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, confirmed that the official "Time of Heroes" website went live on March 1st at 6:00 PM Moscow time. "This important event is aimed at opening up new opportunities for participants and veterans of special military operation (i.e Russian war against Ukraine), providing them with the opportunity to receive higher education and qualifications for further successful careers," he stated. According to Peskov, the development program will be based on the Higher School of Public Administration's "Senesh" management workshop.

The initiative's primary goal is to develop capable and highly qualified leaders from active and retired military personnel who can work in state-owned businesses as well as local and state governments.

Peskov states anyone interested in participating in the program should apply online through the official website. Those who are currently in the so-called SMO zone (the occupied territories of Ukraine) will be able to apply at one of the remote assessment centers. Completing an online questionnaire, passing an online exam, and, if required, writing an essay or doing well in an interview are all part of the selection process.

The program's participants must be Russian citizens with supervisory experience and a higher education degree. However, participation in special military operations is mandatory.

Alexey Komissarov, Acting Rector of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), reports that more than 44,000 people have expressed an interest in participating in the program. Komissarov stated, "This indicates a high level of interest from the relevant audience."

Experts also discuss the opportunities created by the "Time of Heroes" initiative. According to Alena August, a Russian political technologist, participants in the Russian invasion could potentially serve as regional leaders. In other words, enlisting in the Russian army and invading an independent sovereign state like Ukraine "will become a significant step for one's career growth."

Andrei Kartapolov, chairman of the State Duma Defense Committee, highlights that the "Time of Heroes" program offers SMO participants a significant career boost by granting them access to positions in the state administration system. "Those who wish to build a career in the Armed Forces will also have the opportunity for additional education."

All of the members of the State Duma ensured that they praised President Putin for his initiative. And so, the Russian government provides incentives for its citizens to participate in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, killing Ukrainian civilians and soldiers, erasing cities, and ruining the lives of people. These crimes will be "rewarded" by Moscow with new career opportunities.

People who were involved in the "regular" acts of killing and destruction will rise to positions of power in the Russian government and have a substantial impact on the composition of the ruling class. A future Russia is one that will be increasingly governed by those who have been trained to kill,  a class of murderers.

Alona Hryshko
Head of InfoWatch at Internews Ukraine