“Obviously, this is being used as some kind of a propaganda,” said Joshua Castellino, executive director of the London-based Minority Rights Group International, referring to the charges against Kavun and related accusations by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government. At the very beginning of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, Putin rationalized what he called a “special military operation” as designed to bring about the “demilitarization and de-Nazification” of the country. That outlandish justification was not only at odds with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s own Jewish heritage, but also with Ukraine’s status as the fourth-largest Jewish community in Europe and the 11-largest in the world, according to the World Jewish Congress. As recently as this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov defended the Kremlin’s lies about Ukrainian Nazism and claimed without evidence that even Adolf Hitler “had Jewish blood.” The fact that Zelenskyy is Jewish, Lavrov added, “means absolutely nothing. The wise Jewish people said that the most ardent antisemites are usually Jews.” Those remarks elicited a swift rebuke from Israel, Ukraine and the rest of the international community, and prompted an extraordinary apology from Putin to Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. But in his highly anticipated “Victory Day” speech this week, marking the Nazis’ defeat in World War II and delivered at a military parade on Moscow’s Red Square, Putin returned to the same incendiary rhetoric — lamenting that a “clash with neo-Nazis” in Ukraine “was unavoidable.” “This seems to be a very strong element of an internal message to ordinary Russians, to say that these are forces of evil at play,” Castellino assessed of the Kremlin’s Nazi language. “Unfortunately, the choice of the forces of evil at play that [Putin is] portraying are just ironic.” In the 11 weeks since the start of Russia’s invasion, Putin has kept up his stream of disinformation about “de-Nazification,” to the detriment of the Kremlin’s broader messaging efforts. When evaluating similar propaganda campaigns throughout history, “usually, what makes it useful is that there is some vague, vague, vague notion that it may be truthful,” Castellino said. “[But] some of the propaganda we are seeing now has absolutely no basis in any kind of fact.” Perpetuating his myth of a Nazified Ukraine, Putin’s propagandists have repeatedly pointed to Ukrainian nationalist groups that largely rose to prominence after Mo . . . read the full article here.