This paper interrogates the official purveyance of exterminist rhetoric in Russia’s war on Ukraine, with a particular focus on state media discourse. Over decades, the Putin regime has constructed an overarching system of intertwined narratives about Ukraine, centred on historical and geopolitical fables and exhortations to violence, and conveyed via repetitive tropes and tones of speech. These are ritualistic semi-scripted televised discussions (“agitainment”) featuring state officials, hack journalists, and prowar scholars. This elaborate discursive spectacle models a sadistic affect and seems designed to crush empathy towards Ukrainian civilians and among Russia’s own citizens. Anthropological and critical discursive approaches to the circulation of utterance suggest avenues for analysing the impacts, obvious and subtle, of these rhetorical and aesthetic devices in the context of terror directed both internationally and domestically.


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