Russia’s genocidal propaganda must not be passed off as freedom of speech

Peter Pomerantsev

I was in gorgeous, courageous Kyiv on Monday when the latest Russian missile shower hit Ukraine, murdering civilians and knocking out heat and light on the cusp of winter. Kyivans took it calmly. My meeting smoothly transferred from a cafe to the metro, where we chain-drank coffee and carried on under the sirens and occasional, reverberating booms of missile defence. On social media and Russian TV, the grotesque propaganda cast of state-controlled media, officials and tub-thumping pundits were their usual sadistic selves, celebrating the strikes and calling for more attacks on civilians and critical infrastructure.

For years, and especially since the invasion of 24 February, Russian state media has been calling to wipe Ukraine off the map, for killing Ukrainians en masse, and dehumanising its people, smearing them as “Nazis” who need to be “denazified”.

Examples are plentiful. In Russia’s state-run RIA Novosti news agency, the pro-Kremlin journalist Timofey Sergeytsev called for the destruction of Ukraine’s national identity and a campaign of brutal punishment of its people. He called for imprisonment, forced labour and death for those who refused to comply with the Kremlin’s rule in Ukraine….