If Russia is saving Europe from fascists, why is Putin acting like one?

On March 15, Russian Ambassador to Thailand Yevgeny Tomikhin held a press conference to give Russia’s views on its invasion of Ukraine.

According to some media, journalists from Japan, the United States and other countries were not allowed to attend the event.

During his roughly hour-and-a-half-long conversation, broadcast live by Thailand’s Bangkok Post newspaper, Tomikhin reiterated false claims about Russia’s war of aggression.

As required by Russian law, Tomikhin did not call the invasion a war, but rather a military operation. He repeated the claim that Russia is not bombing “civilian infrastructure” or “apartments”, belied by a slew of videos and deaths.

He said “one of the main priorities” of the Russian armed forces is to avoid civilians, despite evidence suggesting that the Russian military intentionally targets civilian areas.

Tomikhin “advised” anti-war protesters gathered outside the embassy to study “the historical context of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis”. And he later claimed that Russia, like in World War II, was defending Europe.

“Europeans still do not understand that Russia is saving them [from] Nazism. It was done in 1945, and now we face another threat from Nazism in Europe,” he said.

Polygraph.info has previously debunked Russia’s efforts to exaggerate the far-right threat in Ukraine and claims to be committed to the “denazification” of Ukraine. Russian propagandists have gone so far as to warn of Holocaust-like scenarios in eastern Ukraine, where Russia launched a clandestine war in 2014.

But the United Nations’ International Court of Justice (ICJ) has rejected Russia’s claim that it is ending genocide in its war to “denazify” its neighbour. On Wednesday, March 18, the ICJ ruled that it had not seen evidence proving Russia’s genocide claims and called on Russia to immediately end its war.

Moscow rejected the decision.

At the same time, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions have had fascist overtones, despite his claim to fight Nazism.

On Wednesday March 16, Putin delivered an angry speech targeting a so-called fifth column – an alleged covert group seeking to undermine Russia from within.

Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at the concert marking the eighth anniversary of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Putin said:

“Of course they (the West) will try to bet on the so-called fifth column, on the traitors – on those who earn their money here, at home, but live there. And they live, not in geographical sense of the word, but by their thoughts, by their servile thought.

“I don’t judge those who have villas in Miami or on the French Riviera. Or who can’t do without oysters or foie gras or so-called gender freedoms. The problem here is not there, but in the fact that many of them people, by their very nature, are exactly there, and not here, not with our people, not with Russia.

“This, in their opinion, [is] a sign of belonging to a superior caste, to a superior race. These people are ready to sell their own mother if only they are allowed to sit in the hallway of this highest caste.”

Putin went on to claim that US and European sanctions, passed to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, and speculation about Russia’s military casualties are actually aimed at provoking civil conflict in Russia. The so-called “fifth columns” are used to achieve this goal of “destroying Russia”, he said.

But any people, and even more so the Russian people, will be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors, and simply spit them out like a gnat that flew into their mouths.

Spit it on the sidewalk. I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, our cohesion and our ability to respond to all challenges.

Commentators were quick to notice the fascist parallels.

“The language of national ‘self-purification’ that Putin invoked today is the standard vocabulary of fascism, all in the name of a war for so-called denazification,” said Seva Gunitsky, associate professor of political science at the University of Toronto. on Twitter.

Moscow-based political analyst Andrei Kolesnikov told Reuters: “Putin, in Orwellian fashion, has divided Russian citizens into pure and impure.”

In his 2004 book, The Anatomy of Fascism, Robert Paxton, professor emeritus at Columbia University, defined fascism as follows:

A form of political behavior marked by an obsessive preoccupation with communal decline, humiliation or victimization and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass party of committed nationalist militants, working in a difficult but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic freedoms and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal constraints the objectives of internal cleansing and external expansion.

In his 1995 essay, “Ur-fascism”, cultural theorist and author Umberto Eco identified a number of characteristics of fascism.

Eco noted that fascist societies view disagreement as “treason,” condemn “non-standard sexual habits,” obsess over conspiracies in which “followers must feel beleaguered,” and use Orwellian “Newspeak” to limit instruments of complex and critical reasoning.

Russian citizens also began to display the letter Z, which was marked on some Russian military vehicles at the start of the invasion.

Videos have been released showing young people dressed in black with the letter Z on their clothes, chanting angrily and sometimes raising their fists in unison. Some evidence suggests that attendees were coerced into joining these gatherings.

Political strategist Igor Mangushev identifies himself as a “retired captain of the People’s Republic of Luhansk”, one of two breakaway provinces in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, where Russia is in proxy war with kyiv since 2018.

Mangushev has been linked to the Russian Internet Research Agency, a troll farm suspected of involvement in cyberattacks in the United States and elsewhere. He told the Latvian news site Meduza “he likes the totalitarian aesthetic of the student rally with the Zs and the Sieg Heiling”, referring to the German salute in World War II.

Two days before invading Ukraine on February 24, Putin gave a speech denying that Ukraine had a “real state”, calling it Russia’s “own history, culture, spiritual space”.

Analysts at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, DC think tank, said Putin’s “de-Nazirification” is a pretext to “extinguish the Ukrainian state and eradicate any trace of a distinct Ukrainian identity.”

According to some analysts, this amounts to genocide.

“It’s not just a ‘land grab’. Putin made no secret of his intention – and his declared right – to subjugate Ukraine, a complex multicultural, multiethnic and multireligious state,” wrote Olga Andriewsky, associate professor of history at Trent University.

“[Putin] views Ukraine’s very existence as an affront to its own sense of Russian identity. What subjugation will mean is the destruction of a vibrant democratic society, the loss of countless lives and the annihilation of an entire culture. Genocide, in short.

Others argue that Putin’s justification for war on Ukraine mirrors actions taken by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler during World War II.

“Hitler’s Argument [to dismember Czechoslovakia] is very, very similar to Putin’s,” Dov Zakheim, senior adviser at the Washington Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Washington Post.

Mirroring Hitler’s actions, Zakheim said Putin accused the Ukrainian government of “mistreating those poor Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine” as a pretext to invade. “So it’s the same playbook,” Zakheim said.

“When [Hitler] not far from the Sudetenland, his argument was: “These people don’t want to be part of Czechoslovakia. They are Germans. Putin says the same about these people in Donetsk and Lugansk: “They don’t want to be part of Ukraine. They are Russians. Exactly the same argument.

A soldier from a unit of the Ukrainian Airborne Assault Brigade sits in a light tank in a warehouse serving as a forward position in Novoluhanske, opposite Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region, February 22, 2022. ( Marian Kushnir/RFE/RL)

A soldier from a unit of the Ukrainian Airborne Assault Brigade sits in a light tank in a warehouse serving as a forward position in Novoluhanske, opposite Russian-backed separatists in the Donbas region, February 22, 2022. ( Marian Kushnir/RFE/RL)

Putin also cited the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians when he annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. He claimed that Crimea had historic sites as important “as the Temple Mount in Jerusalem for those who profess Islam. and Judaism”.

This has been disputed.

Also in 2014, Putin said he had the right to protect ethnic Russians everywhere. Russia has often carried out a so-called “passportization” campaign – distributing passports to Russian citizens living abroad.

Analysts note that this practice has been used twice in recent decades to justify Russian military intervention in the breakaway republic of South Ossetia in Georgia and Crimea.

In 2015, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton compared the policy to Hitler’s “Heim ins Reich” resettlement policy, which sought ethnic Germans living outside Nazi Germany to help reintegrate their land into “Greater Germany”.

“[This is like] what Hitler did in the 1930s,” Clinton said, referring to Russia’s decision to hand out Russian passports to Crimeans.

“All the Germans who were…the ethnic Germans, the ancestry Germans who were in places like Czechoslovakia and Romania and other places, Hitler kept saying they weren’t not treated properly. I have to go protect my people, and that’s what makes everyone so nervous.