Moscow, in another escalation towards a possible invasion of Ukraineare making a growing series of allegations, all without evidence, centered on a single word.
“What is happening in Donbas today is genocide,” Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said on Tuesday, referring to eastern Ukraine.
Senior Russian officials and state media has been echoing from there Putin’s use of “genocide”. Russian diplomats have sent a document to the United Nations Security Council accusation Ukraine’s “destroyed civilians” in its east.
On Friday, Russia-backed separatists, which control parts of eastern Ukraine, announced that Ukrainian troops were about to attack, and ordered women and children to evacuate. Wide coverage on Russian state media depicts Russian minorities on the run from an autocratic Ukrainian military, and President Biden calls such incidents fabricated as a pretext for a Russian invasion.
The Kremlin has long asserted that the Ukrainian government terrorizes ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking citizens. The allegation, supported by one-sided and false stories of anti-Russian violence, was seen as justification in 2014 for Russia’s annexation of Crimea and invasion of eastern Ukraine.
The recent resurgence of such language, and now voiced directly by Mr. Putin, suggests what Western analysts and governments say may once again be a prelude to invasion.
But the calls for genocide are more than just a snub. They reflect Moscow’s sincere belief that, in a world dominated by a hostile West, it is the rightful defender of the Russian diaspora across the former Soviet republics.
In that worldview, any disruption of Moscow’s influence within its sphere constitutes an attack on the Russian people at large – especially in Ukraine, which Mr. Putin considers Russian to be Russian. really.
The genocide proclamations were thus a way to assert Russia’s sovereignty over the entire Russian nationalist empire that extended beyond its official borders – and control of that empire by force.
Clash of civilizations
“There is a long history of the use and abuse of genocide allegations in post-Soviet countries,” said Matthew Kupfer, a Kyiv-based analyst. studied Moscow’s use of such statements.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, and with the ideological background of the constituent states, those countries have reorganized their identities around the memory of World War II.
Mr Kupfer said: Genocide, seen as a symbol of Nazi Germany, became shorthand for anything considered “absolute evil”, making protesting that evil an imperative of the nation.
During Russia’s tumultuous 1990s, nationalist writers such as Sergei Glazyev gained wide audiences by calling Western policies “economic genocide” against with the Russian race.
And when relations between Moscow and some of its former satellites broke down in the mid-2000s, accusations of genocide became the language of confrontation.
Pro-democracy uprisings in several former Soviet republics established new governments, in favor of their new, non-Russian-dominated governments.
Ukraine’s leaders, for example, moved to raise the official status of the Ukrainian language starting in 2004 and label it the devastating famine of the 1930s as a deliberate genocidal campaign by the Soviet Union.
Some Russian nationalists fee returnaccused the new governments of conspiring to exclude or even destroy ethnic Russian minorities within their borders.
As Russian nationalists grow in influence – in 2012, Mr Putin appointed Mr Glazyev as a senior adviser on regional affairs – a view has emerged in Moscow that any threat Any threat to their influence over the former Soviet republics could affect the entire Russian race.
In 2014, Ukrainians revolted again, initially because of their president’s decision to reject a trade deal with the European Union in favor of a deal with Russia.
The protests have become a demand to turn away from Russia and embrace a completely separate Ukrainian identity, which confirms Moscow worst fear about the threat to Russian influence. The Kremlin’s allies are leveled again genocide accusationsat first mainly a general expression of condemnation.
This isn’t just rhetoric as Moscow exploits Ukraine’s demographic divisions, in which Russian speakers are, at first, wary of Kyiv’s moves toward Europe.
Russia invaded the largely Russian region of Crimea and backed militants east of Russophone in Ukraine, presenting itself as the protector of populations for which the country has a special responsibility.
The factional divisions serve Moscow’s agenda, which means that so does the specter of Ukrainian atrocities against the Russian minority.
State media has saturated Russian homes with false stories, including stories of mass graves filled with minority Russian civilians and a 3-year-old boy crucified by Ukrainian forces. recapture a town held by the separatists. The support of the Russian people for the Moscow invasions grew.
Mr. Putin, embracing Moscow’s successes as the defender of the Russians in Ukraine, has begun enthusiastically championing what he calls the “Russian world”. It is, in his account, a sphere of influence rooted in ethnicity – an ethnic group facing ongoing threats of genocide.
This new assignment solves a number of problems for Mr. Putin. It represents Russia’s interventions in neighboring countries, often to weaken unfriendly governments or to support friendly ones, as a defensive measure.
It tells Russian citizens, who have suffered eight years of Western-led sanctions in retaliation for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, that they are sacrificing themselves for a heroic war just like the War. Second World War. It gives them a great empire to feel proud again.
As Moscow’s challenges grow, so do its claims of a great struggle to defend the Russian race, often centered on Ukraine.
In 2015, as Russia’s economy flourished, Putin criticized Ukraine’s efforts to isolate Russia-backed separatists:It smells of genocide, “I said. His government committed to investigation “genocide of the Russian-speaking population” in Ukraine.
Understanding the escalating tension in Ukraine
And, in 2018, between diplomatic crisis international isolation of Russia, a lawmaker allied with the Kremlin accused Ukraine looking for “a genocide against the Russians in the Donbas” while Russian Foreign Minister warns about “genocide through sanctions.”
The claims hardly fade alone. Many cases coincided with a military escalation in Ukraine, either by the Russian armed forces or by pro-Moscow separatists.
But each round also reveals a Kremlin that has grown increasingly paranoid and confrontational as its sphere of influence has been diminished. greater pressure from the crisis in Belarus, the uprising in Kazakhstan and an increasingly tough stance towards Moscow in Ukraine.
An uncertain report
In December, with Russian troops starting to strengthen on the Ukrainian border, Mr. Putin repeating a familiar justificationsaid that the situation in eastern Ukraine “is like a genocide.”
Alexey Kovalev, a Russian journalist who heads a fact-checking organization, said: “Declarations of ‘genocide’ by Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine have always been a regular basis. on Russian state propaganda channels”.
But, unlike 2014, Mr. Kovalev Written, the Russians do not seem to respond. There have been very few instances of resentment or sympathy in the past.
Russia’s position on Ukraine, once bitterly hostile, is 45% favorable and 43% negative, a recent poll establish. Although the Russians broadly supported the 2014 invasion of Ukraine, they expressed little enthusiasm for another invasion.
“People are exhausted because Ukraine is always on TV,” Mr. Kupfer said. Although state media has covered some of the same stories as 2014, it has done so more sparingly.
“It may simply be that they realize that war is not going to be popular with the public,” Kupfer added of the Kremlin.
To be clear, statements about Russia’s genocide during this crisis are often aimed abroad, rather than at home, and come from figures of diplomatic importance.
In one Facebook post on Thursday, Russia’s ambassador to the United States cited “atrocities” long despised in Ukraine to accuse the United States aiding “the policy of forcing Russian speakers to leave their current place of residence”.
Thomas de Waal, a Russia expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, called such high-profile comments “disturbing” and said they indicated an “escalation of official rhetoric”.
With so many recent provocative actions by Russia, it is difficult to say whether such statements are intended to telegraph or merely attack a Russian invasion of Russia, Mr. de Waal said. Ukraine.
In either case, the escalation may reflect an increasingly central national mission for Putin’s Russia: a staunch defender, despite Russians abroad, who will never be safe without it.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/19/world/europe/putin-ukraine-genocide.html Putin’s baseless claim of genocide is more suggestive than war