Russian President Vladimir Putin on a screen in Red Square as he speaks at a rally and concert marking the annexation of four regions of Ukraine — Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhia — in central Moscow September 30, 2022.
Alexander Nemenov | AFP | Getty Images
Prominent supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin are increasingly using “genocide rhetoric” when discussing and demonizing Ukrainians, analysts note, with some war commentators hailing the concept of “liquidating” modern-day Ukraine.
Particularly since the February 24 invasion, ultra-nationalists have come to the fore in Russia, constantly urging the Kremlin to take a harder line on Ukraine and openly criticizing Moscow’s military leadership after a series of wartime retreats or defeats.
High-profile commentators, ranging from military bloggers and journalists to politicians and officials belonging to a nationalist faction in Russian politics, have repeatedly called for Russia to take a more ruthless crackdown on Ukraine, with some advocating the use of nuclear weapons and others advocating complete annihilation .
‘cockroaches’ and ‘pigs’
One of the most-visited pro-Kremlin blogs belongs to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who has over 900,000 followers on Telegram and is one of the most outspoken supporters of the war and the most vocal and vicious critic of Ukraine.
The rhetoric he uses to characterize Ukraine and Ukrainians is also becoming increasingly dehumanizing; this week he called officials within the Kiev government “cockroaches” (for wanting to retake Crimea, a Ukrainian peninsula illegally annexed by Russia in 2014), while in early November he used the term “grunting pigs”.
He has denied the existence of “mythical” Ukraine, telling his supporters this week that “Kyiv is the capital of ancient Russia” and that “Kyiv is just a Russian city where people always thought and spoke Russian.”
This sentiment is widely shared by other officials and military bloggers, or “milbloggers” as they are known.
“I have repeatedly said that the Ukrainian nation by and large does not exist, it is a political orientation,” Andrei Medvedev, a Moscow City Duma deputy and pro-Kremlin journalist, told his 150,000 followers in the telegram on Wednesday.
“To be ‘Ukrainian’ you don’t even have to speak the Ukrainian language (which is also still under construction). he claimed.
“All of this can only be stopped by liquidating Ukrainian statehood in its current form,” Medvedev said.
The rhetoric has intensified over the past week after the circulating of a video on social media which Moscow says shows Ukrainian troops killing Russian troops who may have attempted to surrender. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister said Kyiv would investigate the video but said “it is very unlikely” the edited clips show what Moscow claims.
Nonetheless, the video caused a storm among pro-Kremlin commentators, as Russian State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin on his Telegram channel condemned Ukraine, repeating unfounded accusations that the government of Kyiv was run by “fascists” and “Nazis” despite the Ukrainian president become Volodymyr Zelenskyj himself is a Jew.
Another popular motif used by pro-war and Putin bloggers is the characterization of Ukraine and Ukrainians as “evil” or “sadists” or “satanists”.
Blogger Ilya Varlamov, whose Telegram channel is followed by 360,000 people, has described Ukrainians as “the grunting pigs of Satan” (the same derogatory language and terminology is often used across the blogosphere, showing the ubiquity of anti-Ukrainian propaganda), while a Another popular blogger is , Vladlen Tatarsky, followed by more than 500,000 people, called Ukraine’s raid on a Russian-backed monastery in Kyiv this week illustrative of the apparent contempt of “evil” Ukraine for Russian culture.
A view of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra complex in the capital Kyiv,
Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images
Analysts agree that the widespread use of such language by war commentators in Russia is tantamount to “genocidal rhetoric,” analysts at the Institute for the Study of War noted on Wednesday.
“This rhetoric is openly scathing and dehumanizing and calls for the waging of a genocidal war against the Ukrainian state and its people, which has particularly permeated discourse at the highest levels of the Russian political mainstream.”
“As ISW has previously reported, Russian President Vladimir Putin has similarly used such genocidal language in a manner fundamentally inconsistent with calls for negotiations.”
The use of dehumanizing and animalistic descriptions of Ukrainians and espousing unsubstantiated claims that they pose a threat and danger to Russians is reminiscent of the language and debate seen in pre-Holocaust Nazi Germany, in which millions of Jews and others perceived as “enemies” of the Nazis Germany were murdered.
The UN describes genocide “as a crime committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group”.
Ultranationalist propaganda has become part of the mainstream in Russia, one analyst said, with anti-Ukrainian ideology and symbols pervasive.
Max Hess, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Health & Fitness Journal Thursday that “there’s always been quite extreme language spoken in the nature of the Russian blogosphere and in the Russian nationalist crowd … but what’s changing is how much of it.” the Kremlin is pushing into the mainstream.”
“The Kremlin really supports almost a lot of this rhetoric. I mean, we saw just yesterday the Russian Foreign Ministry tweeting a meme about Zelenskyy and the rocket that landed in Poland, “Semitic tropes possible,” he noted, adding, “although we saw the Kremlin engaged in this kind of rhetoric before we saw it [previously] to that extent in the mainstream.”
“And it’s not just in the blogosphere or on these Kremlin social media channels, it’s in state museums, it’s in the rhetoric of the main state talk shows. So it’s really mainstreaming that,” he noted.