Russian President Vladimir Putin created multiple flimsy pretexts for invading Ukraine, one of which came straight from the American left’s playbook.
In addition to creating false flag attacks to frame Ukraine as the aggressors in his war, and questioning the right of Ukraine to exist as a sovereign state based on historical connections to Russia, Putin has claimed that his country must invade and pacify the Ukrainian regime because it is run by Nazis. While the tactic hasn’t swayed many observers, some on the American left have repeated the same talking point as Russia carries out its offensive in Ukraine.
Putin says his opponents are Nazis. Are you telling me that just calling yourself anti-fascist doesn’t mean you’re the good guys?
— Dan McLaughlin (@baseballcrank) February 24, 2022
When Putin delivered an address Thursday announcing the invasion of Ukraine, he said it was necessary to complete the “demilitarization and denazification” of Ukraine. He once again repeated the false allegation that Kyiv has been carrying out a genocide against Russians in the country for eight years.
Supporters of Putin’s theory will point to the Azov Battalion, a single regiment within the Ukrainian National Guard which harbors neo-nazi sympathies and wears Nazi symbolism into battle. However, beyond that battalion, experts say there is little support for the claim that Ukraine is a country run by far-right extremists.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is a Jewish man who lost three relatives in the holocaust. This week, he publicly asked Putin how it is possible he could be both a Jew and a Nazi. Despite that fact, Putin has routinely labeled his opponents and critics in Ukraine as Nazis without evidence. (RELATED: Russian Authorities Crack Down On Massive Anti-War Protests)
“You are told we are Nazis. But could a people who lost more than 8 million lives in the battle against Nazism support Nazism?” Zelensky said during a televised address. Ukraine’s far-right ultranationalist Svoboda party won only a single seat out of 450 during the country’s 2019 parliamentary elections.
A 2017 Pew Research poll on religious attitudes found that Ukrainians were more accepting of Jews as their countrymen than anywhere else in Eastern Europe, with only five percent of citizens saying they wouldn’t accept Jews as Ukrainians.
Ukraine is not a Nazi state pic.twitter.com/hP00XRWTxS
— Dylan Burns 🕊️🇺🇦🏳️🌈 (@DylanBurns1776) February 24, 2022
Russia has some of its own ties to Nazi-aligned extremists. That same poll found that 13% of Russian Christians would not accept Jews as fellow citizens. Putin’s regime has been aligned with neo-nazi groups fighting against Ukraine in the Donbas region since 2014. Jews make up a higher proportion of Ukraine’s population than Russia’s, according to the most recent population data available from both countries.
But, like in the United States, simply labeling the other side as Nazis has convinced some, including some Americans, that Putin is in the right.