What does it mean that Vladimir Putin accuses the Ukrainian government of “genocide,” and promises “denazification” after conquering the country? It means, most likely, that he plans to arrest the political and civic leaders of Ukraine, carry out show trials, and have innocent people executed.
Less horrible interpretations are possible, but not convincing. To be sure, Putin’s language might be construed as propaganda for domestic Russian consumption. In Soviet usage, a Nazi was the greatest enemy, and almost anyone could be defined as one. Perhaps Putin means to reactivate the trauma of the Second World War, and position Russia as the victim. Yet this does not seem quite right. The invasion was initiated with little propaganda buildup. It seems to have been conceived as an operation so rapid that no real justification would be needed.
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