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Latest from Russia disinformation stable: US experiments ‘turning Ukraine troops into monsters’

There have been a series of conspiracy theories in Russian media in recent weeks, including a Chechen commander's claim that Ukraine invasion is a 'holy war' against LGBTQ+ persons.

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New Delhi: Blood samples from captured Ukrainian soldiers showed they had been biologically modified and turned into “cruel monsters” under “secret experiments” — this is a claim two Russian lawmakers, Konstantin Kosachev and Irina Yarovaya, made this week.

Kosachev was also quoted as saying by Russian daily Kommersant that “experiments were conducted on them and experiments on extremely dangerous diseases were carried out on the territory of Ukraine, which under certain circumstances could spread for military purposes”.

Kosachev is a member of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s Federal Assembly. A former diplomat, he alleged that these “experiments” were being conducted at the behest of the US government.

This claim, the latest from the Russian disinformation stable, comes five months into a war that Moscow assumed would be a swift invasion.

Last month, Roman Osadchuk, a research associate with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, remarked that growing disinformation around the war seeks to dehumanise Ukrainians and falls into an already familiar pattern of false narratives coming out of Moscow — a prime example is the narrative of “de-Nazification” that Russian President Vladimir Putin cited as justification for sending troops into Ukraine.

Also Read: What is Kaliningrad? Unique Russian territory that stirred up tensions between Moscow, EU

‘Holy war against LGBTQ+, Antichrist’

In recent weeks, Russian TV anchors and the guests appearing on their shows have sought to peddle various conspiracy theories about the war in Ukraine.

For example, Russian professor Vladimir Avatkov, a guest on state television Russia-1, said last week that Moscow is fighting a war against “the darkness of West” and for the “salvation of all humanity”.

In another instance, Apti Alaudinov — commander of Chechen forces fighting for Russia — described the invasion as a “holy war” against “LGBTQ+ persons” and the “Antichrist”.

“We are not under the flags of LGBT[Q+ and as long as he [Putin] is alive, we won’t be under those flags,” Alaudinov said on Russia-1, adding: “We’re facing the war against the Devil’s army… the army of the Antichrist.”

Stationed in the Chechen Republic, which is part of the Russian Federation, Alaudinov is facing American sanctions for alleged human rights violations. His police force has been accused of torturing and imprisoning LGBTQ+ persons.

Both the professor and military commander were invited to speak on a show hosted by Olga Skabeyeva, a TV anchor with a reputation for being a Kremlin spokesperson.

Called the “iron doll of Putin TV”, she famously blamed Ukrainian forces for the massacre in Bucha in March. Skabeyeva has also claimed that Russians were in the middle of “World War III”.

Other TV anchors such as Vladimir Solovyov have, meanwhile, made casual jokes on live TV about an “ethnic cleansing” in Ukraine.

“When a doctor is deworming a cat, for the doctor, it is a special operation. For the worms, it’s a war and for the cat, it is a cleansing,” Solovyov was quoted as saying Tuesday.

‘Babushka Z’

Anya Ivanova, an elderly Ukrainian woman, became an icon of Russian propaganda after a video of her brandishing the Soviet flag went viral earlier this year.

In the video, she can be seen walking towards Ukrainian soldiers who offer her food but then take the flag from her and stamp on it. Upset, the woman returns their food.

On 5 May, Russian officials unveiled a statue of Ivanova, who has been nicknamed “Babushka Z”, in the coastal Ukrainian city of Mariupol.

While “Babushka” means “grandmother” in Russian, the “Z” is a reference to the symbol spotted on Russian military vehicles deployed in Ukraine.

However, after having received global media coverage, Ivanoka said in May that her actions were misunderstood, adding, “We’d be better off without this war”.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: ‘Born out of personal trauma’: Why this Polish novel speaks to war-torn Ukraine

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