Over the weekend, the Russian Foreign Ministry posted a photo of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on social media.
– They say there are no Nazis in Ukraine? Basic facts and a lot of archival footage tell a different story. The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed, and attached a picture of Zelensky who gives the Nazi salute, apparently as “proof” of this claim.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also asked readers of the message to “think for themselves,” but in return it completely ignored the context of the image.
That Ukraine is ruled and filled with Nazis is a false narrative that Putin has used for several years to dehumanize Ukrainians and legitimize the war against Ukraine, says Eskil Grindal-Syvertsen, a special adviser who mainly focuses on influence operations at the Defense Research Institute. (FFI).
– We recognize the “think for yourself” message emanating from conspiracy circles, and it is also reflected in the slogan of the Russian propaganda channel RT “Ask more.” “The main message is that you are being lied to, and that you will find the truth here,” adds Grindal Sivertsen.
Context of the passage
After Russia’s invasion of Crimea in February 2014, they increasingly began promoting the story that Ukraine was a Nazi state.
Russian researcher Olga Lotman previously stated to the American radio channel NPR And most Ukrainians do not want to deal with the approximately 2% of Ukraine’s national population. The percentage of Nazis and
Listen to Nettavisen’s podcast about the invasion of Ukraine here:
The narrative that Ukraine is Nazi is so ridiculous that it has become something of a joke in Ukraine, and this is precisely the context from which the Russian Foreign Ministry took this photo.
In a stand-up show from October 2014, when Zelensky was a comedian, It is performed by the current president “A letter he intended to send to his relatives in Russia.”
– We all have relatives in Russia, and they ask us the same questions: How are things going? Don’t they eat children? Can we help you escape? Zelensky says in the clip, amidst audience laughter.
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Zelensky also says he tried to explain to his alleged relatives in Russia that everything is fine in Ukraine, but he was not listened to. The then-comedian then says that to refute a stupid claim, you don’t need to deny it, you just need to show how ridiculous the stupidity is.
Then he read “The Letter to Relatives,” which highlights many of the stories Russia tells about Ukraine and Europe:
“My salary is low, but things are going well, because we are allowed to take money and property from Russia,” Zelensky joked about one of the Russian conspiracy theories.
– Send “Mein Kampf”
Finally, he refers to Putin’s Nazi narrative, making a request to the “relatives”:
– If you have the opportunity, please send me Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf.” It’s impossible to get it here, everyone buys it so fast, says the former Jewish comedian, to laughter from the audience.
– Sometimes in the morning, I go out to the balcony to get my morning hair done in the sun. This way, Zelensky says, giving the Nazi salute to other laughter from Ukrainians in the hall.
Here, the Russian Foreign Ministry took a screenshot, in order to publish the image out of context to hundreds of thousands of its followers on the X website (formerly Twitter).
Watch the entire clip below (the tribute comes in 4.14)
Does Putin trust himself?
It is reasonable to believe that the Russian Foreign Ministry is fully aware of the actual context, but it is nonetheless involved. Why?
– False stories must be proven so that people will believe them or think “maybe there is something to this.” The evidence can be real, partly false, or completely fabricated, Grindal Sivertsen tells Nettavisen, and continues:
Taking something that happened, like the Nazi salute to Zelensky from a comedy show, and presenting it in a different context is a classic move. The special counsel says the best misinformation contains a kernel of truth.
He cites another example of this, namely the video that went viral last year of a Norwegian diplomat reprimanding Russian receptionists in a Murmansk hotel.
This embarrassing episode was shared with the Russian public to prove another false narrative that Putin has been telling the Russian people for years, which is that the West hates Russians. Grindal Sivertsen says that Russia often fabricates evidence by falsifying photos, reports, or witness statements.
Does Putin believe his claims that Ukraine is full of Nazis, or is it just something he says so he can continue the war?
– There are slightly different associations with the word “Nazi” in Russia than here. In Putin’s version of history, there is a common thread that runs from the “Great Patriotic War,” that is, World War II, to the current war against Ukraine. Today, Russian patriotism and self-image derive their strength and legitimacy from heroic stories about how Russia, which was the Soviet Union in the strictest sense, fought the Nazis from the West, says Grendal Sivertsen.
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He adds that this is an essential part of Putin’s propaganda.
However, this threat never went away, according to Putin, and now Russia must defend itself again against the Nazis, says Grendal Sivertsen.
– Whether Putin believes this himself is a good question. Russian thought is characterized by the idea that there is no objective truth, but rather everything is a narrative as part of a power struggle. Hence the distinction between truth and lies is not of great importance, and lies are not viewed as immoral when the intention is “good.” If you lie long enough, you too can start to believe your own lies, but what Putin believes deep down, only he knows, concludes the FFI’s special advisor.
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