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Putin supporters call for the extermination of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin on a screen in Red Square as he addresses a rally and concert marking the annexation of four regions of Ukraine – Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia – in central Moscow September 30, 2022.

Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images

Prominent supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin are increasingly using ‘genocidal rhetoric’ when discussing and demonizing Ukrainians, analysts note, with some pro-war commentators applauding the concept of a ‘liquidation’ of the modern state of Ukraine.

Ultranationalists have come to the fore in Russia, especially since the Feb. 24 invasion, continually pushing the Kremlin to take a tougher line with Ukraine and openly criticizing Moscow’s military leadership after a series of withdrawals or defeats during the war.

Well-known commentators, ranging from bloggers and military journalists to politicians and officials, belonging to a nationalist faction of Russian politics, have repeatedly called on Russia to adopt a more ruthless approach towards Ukraine, with some encouraging the use of nuclear weapons and others advocating its complete annihilation.

‘Cockroaches’ and ‘pigs’

One of the most followed pro-Kremlin blogs belongs to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev who has more than 900,000 subscribers on Telegram and is one of the staunchest supporters of the war and the most outspoken and vicious critics of Ukraine.

The rhetoric he uses to characterize Ukraine and Ukrainians has also become increasingly dehumanizing; this week he called government officials in Kyiv ‘cockroaches’ (because they wanted to take back Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014) when he used the term ‘gruntling pigs’ earlier in November.

He has denied the existence of ‘mythical’ Ukraine, telling his followers this week that ‘kyiv is the capital of old Russia’ and that ‘Kyiv is just a Russian city where people have always thought and spoke Russian”. This sentiment is widely shared by other military officials and bloggers, or “milbloggers,” as they are called.

“I have repeatedly said that, on the whole, the Ukrainian nation does not exist, this is a political orientation,” Moscow State Duma deputy and pro-Kremlin journalist Andrey Medvedev told his colleagues on Wednesday. 150,000 subscribers on Telegram on Wednesday.

“To be a ‘Ukrainian’, it is not even necessary to speak the Ukrainian language (which is also being trained). Ukrainians are Russians who have been convinced that they are special, more European, Russians. racially purer and more correct.” he claimed.

“All this can only be stopped by liquidating the Ukrainian state in its present form,” Medvedev said.

The rhetoric heated up last week following the spread of a video on social media which Moscow said showed Ukrainian forces killing Russian troops who may have been trying to surrender. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said Kyiv would investigate the video, but said the edited snippets “are highly unlikely” to show what Moscow claims.

Nonetheless, the video caused a storm among pro-Kremlin commentators, with Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin taking to his Telegram channel to condemn Ukraine and repeat baseless accusations that the government of Kyiv is run by “fascists” and “Nazis” despite the Ukrainian president. Volodymyr Zelensky himself being Jewish.

Another popular motif used by pro-war and pro-Putin bloggers is the characterization of Ukraine and Ukrainians as “evil”, “sadists” or “satanists”.

Blogger Ilya Varlamov, whose Telegram channel is followed by 360,000 people, described Ukrainians as “Satan’s growling pigs” (the same derogatory language and terminology is often shared in the blogosphere, showing the pervasiveness of anti-Ukrainian propaganda) while another popular blogger, followed by more than 500,000 people, characterized Ukraine’s raid this week on a Russian-backed monastery in Kyiv as an illustration of Ukraine’s apparent contempt “perverse” for Russian culture.

A view of the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra complex in the capital Kyiv,

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

“Genocidal Rhetoric”

Analysts agree that the widespread use of such language by pro-war commentators in Russia amounts to “genocidal rhetoric”, as analysts at the Institute for the Study of War noted on Wednesday.

“This rhetoric is openly exterminating and dehumanizing and calls for the waging of a genocidal war against the Ukrainian state and its people, which has notably permeated discourse at the highest levels of Russian politics.”

“As the ISW has previously reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin has also used such genocidal language in a way that is fundamentally inconsistent with calls for negotiations.”

The use of dehumanizing and animalistic descriptions of Ukrainians and the unsubstantiated adherence to baseless claims that they pose a threat and danger to Russians is reminiscent of the language and debate seen in Nazi Germany before the Holocaust in which millions of Jews and other perceived “enemies” of Nazi Germany were murdered.

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The UN describes genocide “as a crime committed with intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, in whole or in part”.

Ultranationalist propaganda has become an integral part of the mainstream in Russia, an analyst said, with anti-Ukrainian ideology and symbols becoming ubiquitous.

Max Hess, a researcher at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told CNBC on Thursday that “there has always been some rather extreme language in the genre of the Russian blogosphere and among the Russian nationalist crowd…but what changes is how much the Kremlin pushes into the mainstream.”

“The Kremlin really almost approves of a lot of that rhetoric. I mean, we saw yesterday, you know, the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeting a meme about Zelenskyy and the missile that landed in Poland. the most anti-Semitic tropes possible,” he noted, adding that “although we’ve seen the Kremlin get involved in this kind of rhetoric before we haven’t seen it [previously] into the mainstream at this point.”

“And it’s not just in the blogosphere genre or on these Kremlin social media channels, it’s in state museums, it’s in the rhetoric of major state talk shows. so really is his integration,” he noted.


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