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Why Is Russia Being So Brutal in Ukraine?

May 23, 2022
Julia Friedrich and Niklas Masuhr


In analysis for Political Violence At A Glance, an IGCC-supported blog dedicated to political violence and its alternatives, Julia Friedrich, a Research Fellow at the Global Public Policy Insitute, and Niklas Masuhr, a Senior Researcher and military analyst at ETH Zurich, discuss the Kremlin’s strategy of brutality in Ukraine, what it means, and what goals it could achieve.

Evidence of war crimes and atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces in Ukraine is surfacing—from Bucha and Borodyanka, to Chernihiv and Mariupol. Why are these atrocities happening?

While it is clear that mass atrocities do not simply materialize in a cultural vacuum, civilizational explanations—i.e., the idea that Russians do not value life the way we do in the West—are lazy and fall short of understanding the roots of the brutality.

The Kremlin has not hidden the fact that it questions Ukraine’s existence as a sovereign state and aims to remove Ukraine as a political entity. As a result, deliberately targeting and killing civilians en masse is part of its strategy. Atrocities are not a by-product of corruption or the consequence of a military and society structured by violence. Mass atrocities are a deliberate approach, and are driven by Moscow’s choices and the structural enablers it has put in place.

Read the full blog post at Political Violence At A Glance.