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Russian army: predetermined cruelty. Chapter 2. The ideology of war

For the Russian army, the invasion of Ukraine was not a repetition of the “Crimean scenario” with the promised easy walk of “polite people” to the “brotherly people.” The fierce resistance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, partisan actions, and the outright negative attitude of civilians demonstrated that Russian soldiers were not considered liberators but occupiers. This required not only pushing out of their minds the previous stereotypes of propaganda but also overcoming universal moral barriers that limit cruelty and prevent the achievement of the aggressive goals of the war. Such barriers were quickly broken by the purposeful instillation in the Russian army of the ideology of hatred of both the enemy and all Ukrainians.

It is always important for a soldier to know not only what he is fighting for but also who he is fighting for. The belief that your enemy is a great and ugly force threatening your loved ones justifies any violence in the soldier’s mind.

To distort the objective reality and create the corresponding “image of the enemy,” Russia used traditional and proven ideological methods: manipulation of anti-fascist discourse – “Russian soldier frees the world from fascism.” They drew parallels with the Second World War – “we have to finish the war that our grandfathers did not finish”; played on the long-standing fears of Russians about an imminent war with NATO – “the enemy at the gate”; speculated on the opposing interests of Russia and the “collective West” – the “battle of civilizations”; used the legend about the unique mission of the Russians – “participation in the primordial struggle between good and evil.”

“We are fighting neo-Nazis. Many residents of Ukraine were deceived by nationalist propaganda, and some deliberately followed the path of the Banderites, other Nazi henchmen who fought on Hitler’s side during the Great Patriotic War” [1] (Vladimir Putin, President of Russia).

“The events in Ukraine are not a clash between Moscow and Kyiv. This is NATO and the US military confrontation with Russia” [2] (Nikolai Patrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of Russia).

“This is the war of Heaven against Hell. Angelic hosts against the devil. The battlefield is Ukraine. On the one side, we, Holy Russia. And against us are the forces of absolute world evil” [3] (Alexander Dugin, Russian philosopher, political scientist, and propagandist).

Those notions have become a mandatory part of the ideological training of personnel in the Russian army.

“Fascist organizations officially exist in Ukraine. Nazism in Ukraine is supported at the state level” [4] (brochure “The truth about Ukraine’s crimes in Donbas,” prepared for Russian servicemen by the organization “Veterans of Russia”).

“The transformation of Ukraine into “anti-Russia” happened under the pressure of the US, the EU, and NATO. The West recognized the people of Ukraine as related close enough by blood to turn Ukraine into an assault base against Russia. Russia responded to this with a pre-emptive strike” [5] (methodical recommendations “Russian world against fascism” for teaching classes to Russian military personnel).

“Ukraine does not exist as a state. There is an occupied territory of the former Ukrainian SSR. Today, Ukraine is taking revenge on Russia for our Great Victory. For us, this is a continuation of the Great Patriotic War. And we, like our grandfathers in the forty-fifth year, are obliged to win” [6] (memo for the conscripts “I live, fight, win,” published in Russia by the “Herald of Military Education”).

At the same time, the cult of death in war is actively imposed on Russian soldiers because contempt for one’s own life inevitably leads to devaluing other people’s lives.

“We are all mortal, and we are all under God. And we will all leave this world one day. The question is how we lived, whether a person lived or not. And your son (killed in the war) lived. The goal of his life has been achieved” [7] (Vladimir Putin, President of Russia).

“This ability to die for higher ideas makes our people, our country, invincible” [8] (Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church).

“Today we, Orthodox and Muslims, Buddhists and Shamanists fight on the side of Good in one line against Ukrainian nationalism and the global Satanism behind it. And maybe our president wasn’t kidding when he said, “we as martyrs will go to heaven, and they will just die.” Probably, Putin knows something about which it is not yet time to talk” [9] (memo for the conscripts “I live, I fight, I win,” published in Russia by the “Bulletin of Military Education”).

One of the most effective ways to remove a person’s moral restraints is to encourage them to take revenge, which has become a powerful emotional tool for pushing Russian servicemen to brutality. And since revenge is considered a proportional punishment for the evil caused (“an eye for an eye”), the maximum number of negative actions is attributed to the Ukrainian side.

In the methodological guidelines for ideological work and information and propaganda support of the war in Ukraine, prepared by the 5th department of the FSB of Russia, it is indicated:

“One of the problems was that the beginning of the special operation and the concept of “denazification” were not backed by an emotional background. There was no mass release of emotionally charged information about the children murdered in the DPR and LPR, about the massacres of Russians by nationalists. There is not enough such information even now, especially firsthand.

It is necessary to spread the narratives about the atrocities and crimes of the nationalist battalions as much as possible, with a clear indication of the hatred of the nationalists specifically for the Russians, as for the people, and not only for the state and the army. It is also necessary to organize stories about the massacre of Russian and Ukrainian veterans and their numerous requests to stop fascism in Ukraine” [10].

The recommendations of the FSB were immediately incorporated into the ideological constructions of the justification for the war. The creation of the idea of the “beastly face” of the Ukrainian military among Russian soldiers has become a mandatory element of educational programs in the Russian army.

“Cruel methods demonstrated today by the Ukrainian army towards the residents of territories not controlled by it, mass death of children, torture of prisoners and people who sympathize with Russia – all this comes from the practice of Bandera during the Great Patriotic War” [11] (methodical recommendations “Russian world against fascism” for teaching classes to Russian military personnel).

“Ukrainian soldiers are creating hell for our prisoners of war. Behind the cruelty hides the inferiority and the age-old fear of the Russians” [12] (memo for the conscripts “I live, fight, win,” published in Russia by the “Bulletin of Military Education”).

“Ukrainian soldiers torture, kidnap and rape on the territory of the DPR and LPR. In Ukraine, one can be beaten for the Russian language. The authorities of Ukraine consider the residents of the DPR and LPR to be “bastards” [13] (brochure “The whole truth about Ukraine’s crimes in Donbas,” prepared for Russian servicemen by the “Veterans of Russia” organization).

But the foundation of the ideological influence on Russian servicemen was the “demonization” of the entire Ukrainian people. Russian politicians and state officials understand that calls to soldiers to destroy their “Ukrainian brothers” will cause cognitive dissonance. Therefore Ukrainians should be turned into “khokhols” (a derogatory term for Ukrainians used by Russians), “fascists,” “Banderians,” “followers of the West,” and “servants of Satan.” Using hate speech, Ukrainians have attributed the most negative human qualities; they are accused of confessing to Nazism and intending to destroy Russian statehood together with the “hostile NATO.”

“Not long ago, 96.7% of Ukrainians were Russians. But 30 years of independence turned them into wild Russophobes. Someday, after denazification, they will become Russians again, but for now, they are enemies. Cruel and insidious. The West has been preparing Ukraine for war with Russia for 30 years. Realizing that we cannot be defeated in a fair fight, they chose the vilest strategy following the example of the Hitlerites” [14] (a memo for the conscripts “I live, fight, win” published in Russia by the “Bulletin of Military Education”).

“I hate them. They are jerks and freaks. They wish us death and death to Russia. And as long as I am alive, I will do everything to make them disappear” [15] (Dmytro Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, Chairman of the ruling United Russia party).

“Ukraine is the kingdom of lies, corruption, and bribery. Ukrainian is not an ethnic group but a perverted way of thinking. Any scoundrel or embezzler is a spiritual Ukrainian. Ukrainian is the bastard who lent his language to Satan. A Ukrainian journalist or a politician of any party in any country, a scum – this is Ukrainian!” [16] (Archpriest Andrii Tkachev).

“We are fighting the Nazis. I believe there should be no mercy for them. In such a situation, the lines from Simonov’s poem are the most appropriate: “Kill at least one! Kill as soon as possible! How many times you see him – that’s how many times you kill him!”. Work, brothers!” [17] (Aleksandr Kibovskyi, head of the Department of Culture of the Government of Moscow).

“No mercy for the Ukrainian civilians!” [18] (Mykhailo Ulyanov, permanent representative of the Russian Federation at international organizations in Vienna).

The goal of such appeals is clear: to show the victim as the oppressor, to instill false ideas about the essence of war in Russian soldiers, and to encourage them to brutality as a necessary means of achieving victory.

The ideological instructions aimed at strengthening the feeling of impunity for what has been done. In the first reading, the State Duma of Russia adopts a bill that abolishes criminal liability for crimes committed in the occupied territories of Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Luhansk, and Kherson regions if such crimes were “aimed at protecting the interests” of the Russian Federation [19].

In the occupying army, murder turns from a crime into a tool for “solving the problem,” and the value of human life is not more than that of an animal. In the recommendations on the communication with the Ukrainian civilians, Russian servicemen are advised: “Concerning domestic dogs, marauders, representatives of the territorial defense, it should be said, “the problem was solved” instead of “shot,” “liquidated,” “killed” [20].

A significant part of Russian soldiers gets rid of their “conscience” and believes that humanitarian law does not apply to the territory of Ukraine and that compliance with the laws and customs of war is not mandatory.

From intercepted telephone conversations of Russian servicemen with relatives and friends:

“Darling, they are just khokhols; they are just junk, just dust. Forget about this nation. It will never exist again. There is very little left – it will be wiped off the face of the earth. They themselves are to blame. I hope they will die as quickly as possible. And their children. I don’t give a damn about their children. A khokhol child? It should be killed before even being born. Therefore, I will make it happen. I do it already. OK, bye. Kiss you.” [21]

“Mother, we have to kill everyone: both children and women. All of them. The entire Ukraine must be destroyed all the way to Lviv. So that this country is not on the map anymore. It is necessary to erase them off the face of the earth. There will be a fight – I will do what I planned to do. I shoot them all. As many as I can. I will carve a swastika on their forehead with my knife. I will personally carve it” [22]

“Nastya, I don’t want to tell you that I shoot civilians, murder them, break their knees. Nastya, I have become a monster, a complete goof. When there were civilians, I threw civilians into the trenches and shot them in the head. They cried, begged me, but I shot them anyway. I put these khokhols on their knees and forced them to say, “Russia forever.” I have never lied to you, and I will never lie to you, Nastya” [23]

“There are no khokhols here anymore. Niggers, Arabs, French, Canadians, Finns, Americans. All of Europe. Do you want me to bring you a nigger’s ear, mother?” [24]

(to be continued)

The 1st chapter, “The Objectives of War” of the series “Russian Army: Predetermined Cruelty,” can be found here.


The material was prepared by experts of the Association UMDPL within the project “Documentation of war crimes committed by the Russian Federation” (The project is carried out with the financial support of NED).



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