How the Kremlin uses comics to glorify its war in Ukraine

Sandro Gvindadze,BBC monitoring, Tbilisi

Rybar.ru An upcoming book with a drawing of a soldier raising his handsRybar.ru

A Ukrainian soldier is portrayed surrendering and changing his name to its Russian version.

The Kremlin is using war-themed comics to sell its vision of the war in Ukraine to young people.

During the first months after the start of the invasion of Ukraine, a survey by the Russian state pollster suggested that young Russians were the least supportive of the war.

Now it appears that the Kremlin is taking steps to ensure those changes.

In April, the Russian defense and education ministries began distributing tens of thousands of comics praising the invasion of Ukraine to schools across Russia and in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories.

According to the project’s official website, the ultimate goal is to supply these comics to all schools under Russian control.

The comics consist of 22 short stories dedicated to Russian soldiers decorated for their role in the war.

They echo the Kremlin’s baseless claim that Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 prevented a “genocide” planned by kyiv authorities in eastern Ukraine and backed by NATO countries.

Among the protagonists is Colonel General Azatbek Omurbekov, commander of the unit responsible for the massacre of civilians in the Ukrainian city of Bucha in 2022.

The comic describes Omurbekov as a “real man” and claims that his troops have shown “humanity” during the first months of the war in Ukraine.

“While they (Ukrainian soldiers) retreated, the enemy abandoned their wounded. The Russian soldiers gave them first aid; Even in war you have to remain human,” the comic reads.

In fact, Russian troops have been accused of torturing and killing Ukrainian prisoners of war by leading human rights groups, including Amnesty International and the United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine.

The books were written by Oleg Roy, a prominent Russian children’s author and strong supporter of the war in Ukraine.

The comics employ anti-Western, anti-Natian and anti-Ukrainian rhetoric long disseminated by Russian authorities. “Out of hatred for Russia, the West arms its neo-Nazi cubs in occupied kyiv,” reads one of the books.

Roy previously created a series of comics dedicated to patriotic “Russian superheroes” that were praised by Kremlin-backed media as “Russia’s answer to DC and Marvel.”

geroisvo.znanierussia.ru A comic drawing of scheming NATO generalsgeroisvo.znanierussia.ru

In Oleg Roy’s books, NATO generals are portrayed as evil and scheming.

In September 2023, prominent military blogger Mikhail Zvinchuk, who is also part of the Russian Presidential Council on the War in Ukraine, published another series of 23 war-themed comics. These comics were translated into English, Arabic and Chinese.

The stories they tell claim to be based on real-life situations from the war in Ukraine. They highlight the courage and determination of Russian soldiers, while derogatory language is used to describe Ukrainian soldiers, who are portrayed as pawns of Western generals.

Some of the stories also echo narratives from state-controlled Russian media, which claim that Ukrainian soldiers lack motivation to fight as their commanders send them to die.

One of Zvinchuk’s comics describes the battle for the eastern Ukrainian village of Klischiivka, which Russia has since claimed to have captured.

It tells the story of a Ukrainian soldier named Mykola, who surrenders to Russian troops, shoots members of his own battalion, and changes his name to Nikolai, the Russian variant of his name.

On another note, two Ukrainian drone operators are desperate and forced to surrender because they cannot withstand the power of Russian armored vehicles, which one of them calls “cyborgs.”

Zvinchuk’s comics were displayed as part of an art exhibition mounted on a train that passed through Russia.

The train featured nine themed cars depicting the “heroism” of Russian soldiers, beginning with World War II and ending with the war in Ukraine.

According to official data, more than half a million people visited the initiative supported by the Ministry of Defense and called The Power of Truth. The train covered more than 34,000 kilometers (21,200 miles), stopping in more than 75 cities between Moscow and the Russian Far East.

Rybar.ru A comic drawing of a Polish general scolding Ukrainian soldiers.Rybar.ru

Polish general scolds Ukrainian soldiers

Another series of comics related to the Ukrainian war focuses on the exploits of the Russian mercenary group Wagner and its late founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, although this series appears to have no official backing.

Wagner’s mercenaries have been involved in wars in Ukraine and Syria. Prigozhin died in a plane crash on August 23, exactly two months after leading a brief mutiny during which his fighters took control of key military installations in southern Russia and began marching on Moscow.

The comics, which were published in late 2023 on the social media platform Telegram, glorify Wagner’s mercenaries and claim that they saved Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine from “genocide.”

The protagonist is a Wagnerian mercenary named Angel of Wrath, who is depicted fighting blue dog-like creatures bearing the Ukrainian coat of arms.

In the comic, these creatures are turned into monsters because of the “new serum that the Americans are injecting into them.”

One of the issues of the series ends with Prigozhin giving an ominous warning: “What they (Russia’s enemies) do not know is where the Angel of Wrath will appear next. So, let everyone wait and fear.”

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