Russian tortures and Russian propaganda: how they reinforse each other

Russia has intensified efforts to subdue the Ukrainian population in the occupied territories and create the picture of justified war in the Russian media. Direct pressure on peaceful demonstrations, abductions and deportations are only a part of Russia’s strategy to kill hope and to impose domination. An important task for the aggressor is to distort public opinion, create true-to-life illustrations for the Nazi image of Ukraine, and to glorify their achievements in the occupied Ukrainian regions.

Ukrainians under Russian occupation easily become the occupant regime’s prisoners of conscience. Local Russian police and FSB conducting frequent checks of online activity to sort out and threaten Ukrainian-minded locals into submission. One case stands out: Vladimir Romanov (romanov_92 on Telegram) posts videos with civilians from Zaporizhia and Kherson regions who apologise for their pro-Ukrainian position and claim support for the Russian regime.

An overall impression is that of a forced confession: all speakers are frightened and exhausted, their speech unnatural and constrained, their words poorly memorised or read from mobile screens. Some of the speakers have visible signs of physical abuse. Most of the confessions are apology videos: Ukrainian civilians say they are sorry for their support for the Ukrainian Army or any other support for Ukraine – all Nazi, obviously – and often finish their monologues with a phrase: “I have completed my course in denazification.”

Another example of torture used for destructive information influence develops around Azov fighters. Ukrainian soldiers who were captured by the Russian army in Mariupol are reported to be tortured in sophisticated ways. It is highly likely that reports about the Russian treatment of their imagined ideological adversaries – the Azov soldiers of the Ukrainian Armed Forces – were a complex psychological special operation to destabilise and frustrate the Ukrainian public.

The violence towards Ukrainians is a more powerful tool to influence Ukrainian decision making and create havoc in the defenders’ minds. The videos of apologising Ukrainians are clearly targeted towards the Russian supporters of the war whose anger is diverted away from Russia’s military failures and catastrophic policy decisions of the Kremlin.

Speaker: Olena Churanova, Fact-checker at StopFake.

UKRAINE IN FLAMES project is created by Ukraine Crisis Media CenterUkrainian Catholic University’s analitical center and NGO “Euroatlantic Course”.  We are aiming at searching a loud support for Ukraine in the war started by Russia on the 24th of February 2022.

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