Candidates Set Their Sights on Soldiers

ReutersSoldiers standing in line to receive their ballots at a polling station at the Russian air base at Kant, Kyrgyzstan.
Presidential candidates will be courting the military vote over the long weekend on the occasion of the Defender of the Fatherland holiday on Saturday.

First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Democratic Party of Russia head Andrei Bogdanov will all lay flowers at war memorials and meet current and former servicemen.

Early voting for servicemen in the March 2 election began Tuesday.

Medvedev, the presidential front-runner and President Vladimir Putin's preferred successor, "is planning a meeting with officers" on Saturday, government spokeswoman Marina Dobina said.

Zyuganov, meanwhile, will meet retired naval officers Friday to award them party medals dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Soviet navy, his spokeswoman said. Zyuganov, together with other party members, will then lay flowers at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier near Red Square.

The Communists plan to rally Saturday at noon on Triumfalnaya Ploshchad in central Moscow.

Zhirinovsky will be among several state officials to lay flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier together with Putin on Saturday morning, Zhirinovsky's spokeswoman said. It was unclear if Medvedev would attend the ceremony.

Zhirinovsky is also planning to rally supporters at noon Saturday on Pushkin Square.

Bogdanov plans to meet World War II veterans Saturday in his hometown of Mozhaisk, 100 kilometers west of Moscow, and lay flowers at three war memorials, his spokeswoman said. The veterans are friends of his grandmother, who heads Bogdanov's campaign headquarters in the town.