Russia’s Ukrainian propaganda has gone totally genocidal

On February 26, only two days after the start of the war, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti published an editorial titled “The Rise of Russia and the New World”. Its author, without the slightest irony, praises Russian President Vladimir Putin for the “timely solution of the Ukrainian question”. A few hours later, the article was deleted and is now only available in the web archive. It’s unclear why it was removed, whether because of its uncomfortable proximity to the lexicon of systematic mass murder or because it outlined a plan to dismantle the Ukrainian state after a successful invasion took place. presented as a fait accompli when in reality the Russian forces were routed. .

But this editorial was not a fluke or an oversight by the editor. Putin’s hatred for Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign state is well known: he reportedly complained that “Ukraine isn’t even a real country” to then-US President George W. Bush, in 2008. The same conviction is evident in his later treatises and, finally, his bizarre televised speech three days before he launched the war. Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the eastern regions of Ukraine, televised rhetoric has followed Putin’s cues and been extremely derogatory towards Ukraine and its leaders, but not so much ordinary Ukrainians as that people.

This has radically changed. Since the failure of Putin’s apparent plan to rush to kyiv, decapitate the Ukrainian government and install a puppet regime became apparent – and it became clear to him that ordinary Ukrainians were not waiting to be released by Russia – the language about Ukraine and Ukrainians has become much more radical and toxic.

On February 26, only two days after the start of the war, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti published an editorial titled “The Rise of Russia and the New World”. Its author, without the slightest irony, praises Russian President Vladimir Putin for the “timely solution of the Ukrainian question”. A few hours later, the article was deleted and is now only available in the web archive. It’s unclear why it was removed, whether because of its uncomfortable proximity to the lexicon of systematic mass murder or because it outlined a plan to dismantle the Ukrainian state after a successful invasion took place. presented as a fait accompli when in reality the Russian forces were routed. .

But this editorial was not a fluke or an oversight by the editor. Putin’s hatred for Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign state is well known: he reportedly complained that “Ukraine isn’t even a real country” to then-US President George W. Bush, in 2008. The same conviction is evident in his later treatises and, finally, his bizarre televised speech three days before he launched the war. Since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and invaded the eastern regions of Ukraine, televised rhetoric has followed Putin’s cues and been extremely derogatory towards Ukraine and its leaders, but not so much ordinary Ukrainians as that people.

This has radically changed. Since the failure of Putin’s apparent plan to rush to kyiv, decapitate the Ukrainian government and install a puppet regime became apparent – and it became clear to him that ordinary Ukrainians were not waiting to be released by Russia – the language about Ukraine and Ukrainians has become much more radical and toxic.

Before the invasion and in the first weeks of the war, Putin and his loyalist media insisted that the purpose of what they called a “special operation” was the liberation of Ukrainians suffering under the yoke of alleged Nazi usurpers. . The war had nothing to do with the Ukrainian people, they insisted, because Russia was fighting NATO and the West, which had undermined Russia by supporting the Ukrainian “nationalist junta”.

But in Russia, the idea that the country is once again fighting the Nazis is a rhetorical weapon of mass destruction. Putin’s Russia derives much of its legitimacy from claiming the decisive triumph of the Soviet Union over the ultimate evil of 20th century Europe. The regime turned the annual celebration of Nazi Germany’s surrender in 1945 into a quasi-religious holiday; comparing Joseph Stalin to Adolf Hitler is now a criminal offence. Thus, the Nazi insult against Ukraine – repeated endlessly in the Russian media – was well chosen and made the war a just cause for many Russians. It is a boon to Russian propagandists that Ukraine has a paramilitary unit that wears stylized runes as its insignia and shows an affinity for Ukraine’s World War II independence movement with its anti-Semitic and Russia-hating leaders. (Russian soldiers and mercenaries also wear Nazi symbols, especially Dmitry Utkin, the founder of the famous Wagner Group.)

Of course, Russian claims that its army is “denazifying” Ukraine are nonsense; Ukrainian Jews (of which their president is one) are, of course, on their country’s side, and the right-wing Ukrainian Svoboda party won only 3% of the vote in the last election. Moscow clearly has nothing against openly fascist views at home or abroad, as shown by its well-documented covert and overt support for far-right and ultra-nationalist leaders, parties and movements in Europe and elsewhere. Russian state propaganda has long stripped the word “Nazi” of any meaning.

When the Ukrainians fought back fiercely, stood entirely behind their supposedly evil leaders, and showed no desire to be supposedly liberated by Russia, the Kremlin’s propaganda shifted gears and went into full genocidal mode.

On March 26, as the Russians were pushed back around kyiv but still controlled Bucha, Ukraine, and its other northern suburbs, RT’s editor-in-chief Margaret Simonian told another pro-Kremlin channel that to his “horror” a “significant part of the Ukrainian nation was in the grip of Nazi frenzy”. It was a marked departure from the earlier trope of a captive nation with a few Nazi apples at the top. Dmitry Medvedev, once liberal president of Russia and now deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, rants against Ukraine on his Telegram channel, calling it a “completely fake” nation and a “copy of the Third Reich” that does not does not deserve to exist.

Kremlin-owned and controlled media – the only media still allowed to operate – carried these messages to millions and millions of Russians. In Rossia-1’s flagship talk show, host Vladimir Solovyov said: “Vladimir Zelensky is the last president of Ukraine because there will be no Ukraine after this.” The audience applauded.

A more recent RIA Novosti editorial by Timofey Sergeytsev describes the planned extermination of an entire nation in a pragmatic way. Not only does he portray “Ukronazism” as a more dangerous global threat than Hitler, but he portrays much of the Ukrainian nation as accomplices and legitimate targets of terror. “A significant part of the popular masses, who are passive Nazis, are accomplices of Nazism,” he writes. Ukraine’s elites “must be liquidated because they cannot be re-educated and the social swamp that supported them must be terrorized by war and made to pay for their crimes.” After the war, Ukraine should be carved up into small Russian-controlled states, its people and culture Russified, and the name “Ukraine” erased from the map. In short, the “denazification” of Ukraine has come to mean nothing less than annihilation.

It is unclear whether Russian troops committing mass murder and mass rape in occupied Ukrainian villages, towns and cities actually read the rants of Medvedev and other propagandists. But by making it clear that a “significant part of the masses” are allegedly Nazis and thus Russia’s worst enemy, propagandists incite those who absorb the rhetoric to extreme violence – and absolve them of any need to feel guilty. these offences.

Judging by what survivors of Russian atrocities are now telling reporters, it is reasonable to assume that Russian forces have been exposed to some version of this rhetoric. Survivors recount how Russian soldiers hunted nonexistent “Nazis” among the terrified locals they claimed to liberate. Driven by the language of annihilation and extermination, Russian soldiers, Rosgvardia troops and mercenaries became willing executioners of ordinary Ukrainians.

Russia’s increasingly vicious propaganda version of the war appears to be terrifyingly effective. In many reports, many Russian-Ukrainian families are fractured, with Russian parents simply refusing to believe their children and siblings across the border. In videos released by Ukrainians, Russian POWs call home; their mothers, instead of comforting them, unload grotesque monologues about Ukrainian biolabs allegedly concocting deadly viruses to exterminate Russians. By denying the war crimes committed by its military, Russia is now repeating talking points employed by other regimes waging genocidal war; during World War II, real Nazis dismissed foreign reports of the massacre of Jews and Soviet POWs as “atrocity propaganda”.

Long after losing World War II and revealing the horrors of their atrocities, many Germans still believe the Holocaust was faked by their country’s enemies. The Kremlin’s annihilationist propaganda gives Russian commanders and troops a clear conscience for killing Ukrainian civilians. And its effects on Russians will likely persist long after this war is over.

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