Russia Built Its Empire On Lies. My Country Sees The Truth.

The Russia propaganda machine has weaponized its citizens and glorifies war. Ukraine's second-in-command, Andriy Yermak, sees through it.
Ukrainians living in Krakow, Poland, and their supporters are seen during a protest on the 200th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Sept. 11, 2022.
Ukrainians living in Krakow, Poland, and their supporters are seen during a protest on the 200th day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Sept. 11, 2022.
NurPhoto via Getty Images
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If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, quacks like a duck, then there is a very high probability that Russian propaganda will argue this creature is a tiger. In the world Russians live in today, a tiger may well have wings, a beak, and flippers ― if the Kremlin so desires. But in this reality, even darker things are possible.

In Russia, nearly a quarter of the population do not have sewage facilities, but missiles are seen as a priority.

In Russia, its leaders can weaponize almost one-quarter of the world’s natural gas reserves, but almost one-third of households cannot heat their homes.

In Russia, they love “greatness.” But this most nebulous of concepts is never measured by economic development, well-being or quality of life. The Russians measure it by fear.

Terror is a part of life in Russia. Paranoia is drummed into its citizens. This has tragic consequences for the outside world. Because Russians fear themselves and what they have become, they seek comfort from harassing others with their “power.”

In their view, the more people in the world that suffer at the hands of the Russian government, the mightier their state becomes.

In Russia, a death cult reigns supreme. In a country that claims to be a pillar of Christianity, children are taught from a young age that they may very well have to die to promote the glory of the state. Earlier this month, Vladimir Solovyov, a Kremlin propagandist, was filmed telling schoolchildren that “A Russian person is always ready to die. We never know when the Motherland will say: ‘You must!’”

Years ago, the pop artist Sting famously sang, “I hope the Russians love their children, too.” I recalled that song in March when I heard a recording of a Russian serviceman as he called his wife from a newly captured town in the Kyiv region. He boasted how he had robbed a Ukrainian family’s home to provide supplies for his own. Thousands of such cases have been documented.

Many Russian soldiers come from the poorest regions. Looting in Ukraine has become an easy way to improve the living standards of their loved ones.

A mother giving up on her son after he was captured in Ukraine is also a manifestation of love in the warped reality of Russia. When a Ukrainian journalist called her to say her child was in captivity and sitting beside him, the mother replied that she didn’t have a son before hanging up.

In the United States, you may be shocked to hear of such callousness. But we can understand this woman. Since Soviet times, Russian prisoners of war have been considered traitors and their relatives often suffer repression.

In the basket case that is Russia today, encouraging your husband to maraud through the Kherson region and rape Ukrainian women is probably nothing more than a manifestation of love. In Russia, truth is almost always more terrible than fiction.

Of course, other soldiers do not seek permission. The Russian military has used sexual violence as a tool of terror. We have collected thousands of documented cases involving women, men and children.

Last week, following six weeks of negotiations, Russia returned the body of Paul Urey, a British aid worker, to Ukraine. He had been captured in April while evacuating civilians from the combat zone in the Zaporizhzhya region.

In July, the Russians reported that Urey had died “due to illness and stress.” On Sept. 7, we saw what kind of “illness” he had suffered and what kind of “stress” he had experienced, as his body was returned with “signs of possible unspeakable torture.”

Hostage-taking are everyday occurrences for the Russian armed forces.

The Security Service of Ukraine has thousands of such records. From the Mykolaiv region, from Kherson, from Chernihiv ― from everywhere Russian soldiers put on their boots. But can we, in all honesty, call them soldiers?

Have these servicemen not simply been dehumanized? Perverted by a toxic culture and brainwashed by a sinister propaganda machine, Russia has created a terrifying bloodlust within its armed forces and wider population.

This is the reality of a state whose citizens are no longer able to tell the difference between good and evil, or simply right and wrong. A state where the car industry is now reliant not on market demand, but the bodies of the dead.

In Ukraine, we were astonished to see online videos showing relatives of those Russians “killed in action” joyfully exchanging their compensation for Ladas. Is this joy sincere? It is hard to tell.

After all, the only empire that Russia has ever successfully built is an empire of lies. Here, they call fascists those whom they want to conquer and destroy. Here, the war is called a special operation. Here, the invaders are named liberators. Being a mercenary is prohibited by law, but mercenaries are legally hired all the same. Looting is seen as an achievement. Rapists, torturers and butchers are considered heroes.

Russia does not fight terrorists: It pays them for their service. It raises its children to become terrorists. It incites its citizens to terrorism. Regardless of where they are involved ― in the official armed forces, in the unofficial ranks of Wagner, in the FSB, the GRU, Gazprom, or Rosatom ― they all perform the same function. Their overarching objective is to sow terror and hatred, murder and threaten, coerce and blackmail. They are told all this is for the glory of the Russian Land, Terra Russia.

So, isn’t it time to finally call it by its real name?