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The Recurrent Themes in Russian Information Warfare on Ukraine and Ukrainians

Section 4 from “Old Wine in a New Bottle: Russia’s Modernization of Traditional Soviet Information Warfare and Active Policies Against Ukraine and Ukrainians”.

by Taras Kuzio, the Department of Political Science, National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy, Kyiv, Ukraine

Russian information warfare has repeatedly promoted the view of Ukraine as an artificial and failed state that is not wanted in Europe, can only exist under Russian leadership, and its borders are illegitimate. Ukraine has been described as not a country but a mere territory and a Nazi state.63 Statements such as ‘there is no Ukraine’ and that Ukraine ‘cannot be regarded as a serious state’ are regularly seen on Russian state TV.

Russian chauvinistic views of Ukraine and Ukrainians go to the very pinnacles of the Russian political system and with Russian media, especially television, being tightly controlled, these views influence the attitudes of the majority of the Russian population. State TV Pervy Kanal host and Deputy Speaker of the State Duma Pyotr Tolstoy heads a weekly show that he uses to lambast Ukraine as not a real country, its borders being artificial, and Ukrainians a fake people who are really ‘Russians’.64

Tolstoy has also been accused by Jewish organizations in Russia of fanning anti-Semitism.65 Indeed, one of the ironies of the information warfare promoted by Russia and its Donbas proxies is that it often draws on anti-Semitism by portraying Ukrainian ‘fascists’ in bed with ‘Jewish’ oligarchs who are in turn in alliance with international ‘Judaeo-masons’ seeking to dominate the world (a common bogeyman in Russia, Poland, Hungary, and elsewhere is George Soros).66 The roots of this anti-Semitism are to be found in Soviet-era anti-Zionism. This is coupled with racism in the use of the phrase ‘khokhlo-faggot’ (khokhol is a derogatory term for Ukrainians akin to ‘nigger’).67 The highly offensive terms khokhly and ‘crafty khokhly’ are regularly used on Russian TV, often in conjunction with 19th-century depictions of Ukrainians as ‘stupid’, ‘dumb’, and speak- ing an ‘uncivilized language’ that when heard in Russian talk shows leads to widespread guffaws.68

Ukrainian leaders and oligarchs are described as Jews or Jews pretending to be Ukrainians using traditional Soviet anti-Zionism, which was always a camouflaged form of anti-Semitism.69 Moscow finds it difficult to reconcile the fact that Ukraine’s Russian-speaking Jews supported the Euromaidan Revolution and have backed the Ukrainian state in the war with Russia, while Jews living in the DNR and LNR Russian proxy enclaves have fled to Ukraine where they feel more comfortable.

Although Russia did not want to see Poroshenko’s re-election, it is con- fused by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was elected on an anti-establishment, anti-corruption populist wave. In summer 2019, Ukraine was the only coun- try outside Israel with a Jewish President (Zelenskyy) and Jewish Prime Minister (Volodymyr Hroysman). Zelenskyy’s election has brought to the forefront the anti-Zionism (read anti-Semitism) in Russian nationalists, such as Glazyev, who wrote in the Russian great power nationalist newspaper Zavtra:70

Perhaps the (US) stake on Zelensky, made long before these elections, is connected with the general alliance of the Trump administration with far-right forces in Israel. Probably, they will set new tasks for the renewed Kyiv regime. I do not exclude, for example, the possibility of a massive ‘clear out’ of the Russian population from the South-Eastern lands of Ukraine by the inhabitants of the Promised Land who are tired of permanent war in the Middle East — just like the Christians fleeing from Islamizing Europe.

Ukraine as a country overrun by ‘fascists’ and ‘Nazis’ has been a staple of Russian information warfare since the Orange Revolution. Ukraine stands out, with the greatest number of pages of the 33 countries in a report by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs into signs of ‘Nazism’.71 The report claimed:

The rise of neo-Nazism and radical nationalism in Ukraine has recently, in particular after the unconstitutional coup d’état of February 2014, reached an unprecedented level. The whole range of manifestations and signs of neo Nazism has been registered in the country, including consistent, state-level rehabilitation and glorification of Nazi accomplices of World War II, policy of falsification of its history, swift legitimization of radical nationalists and their entry to state power structures, purges and punitive military operations concerning the people labeled as conducting ‘anti-Ukrainian activities’.

Footnotes

63‘How to Become a Stateless Nationalist’, EU Disinformation Review, 18 October 2018, https://euvsdisinfo.eu/ become-stateless-nationalist/.

64‘Tolstoy’s Resurrection’, EU Disinformation Review, 22 October 2018, https://euvsdisinfo.eu/tolstoys-resurrection/.

65‘Tolstoy’s Resurrection’.

66‘Chaos and Hate’.

67Ibid.

68M. A. Berdy, ‘Let’s Talk About Ukraine’, Moscow Times, 2 April 2019, https://www.themoscowtimes.com/2019/04/ 02/lets-talk-about-ukraine-a65057.

69T. Kuzio, Putin’s War Against Ukraine, pp. 118–40.

70S. Glazyev, ‘Okkupatsiya’.

71Neo-Nazism — A Dangerous Threat to Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law (Moscow: Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 24 April 2015), http://www.mid.ru/en/diverse/-/asset_publisher/8bWtTfQKqtaS/content/id/ 1278647.

CONTACT Taras Kuzio taras.kuzio@ukma.edu.ua Department of Political Science National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy 2 Skovoroda Street Kyiv 04070 Ukraine

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