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Tactics and tools How Russian propaganda uses victim image tactics

Pity is a fairly strong human emotion, because it appeals to a sense of justice and can cause a strong thirst for revenge on those who are the offender and aggressor. Russian propaganda uses these features of psychology in the “image of the victim” tactic. It often works together and is intertwined with heroization tactics, creating a synergistic effect.

An example of the use of “insulting the victim” is one of the key Russian propaganda narratives about “the children of Donbas, who were killed for 8 years”. Its symbolic expression is the so-called “Alley of Angels”, which was opened in Donetsk in 2015. The names of the children who died as a result of the Russian-Ukrainian war are minted there. The blame for this is laid, of course, on “Ukrainian Nazis and Bandera”. Russian propaganda deliberately does not mention that these children would be alive if there had not been a Russian military invasion in Donetsk and Luhansk region in 2014. So the occupiers want to shift the responsibility for unleashing the war and war crimes to Ukraine and justify their full-scale aggression in 2022 by appealing to the “killed children of Donbas”.

One of the fakes fueling the “8 years” narrative is the story of a little “boy in panties” allegedly crucified on a bulletin board “like Jesus”. “Ukrainian Nazi punishers” allegedly did this in 2014 in Sloviansk because the boy was the son of a Russian aggressor from the so-called DNR. True, the woman who told the propagandists this “shocking” story did not become happy in Russia and in 2021 complained about discrimination based on nationality in a “multinational country”.

Another key justification for full-scale aggression is the narrative that supposedly “Russia is defending itself against the Ukrainian Nazis and NATO” and its attack is only a preemptive strike. A number of different messages were used here, such as the existence of NATO biological laboratories in Ukraine for the development of biological weapons directed against Russia, as well as alleged attempts by Ukraine to create a “dirty nuclear bomb”, etc. In this narrative, the term “russophobia” plays an important role, which affects any negative reaction of other countries and the international community as a whole to the aggressive actions of Russia, and not only in Ukraine.

After the start of a full-scale Russian war against Ukraine in 2022, the concept of “russophobia” began to be used much more often, although it was talked about at least in the early 2000s. He tells the world allegedly about discrimination against Russia and Russians and double standards on it, which are used by the “collective West”. There is an appeal to Western liberal values and an attempt to put “russophobia” on a par with such, of course, negative phenomena as racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, and so on.

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