Russian state media has amplified remarks from far-right US congressman Madison Cawthorn calling Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” and the country’s government “incredibly corrupt” and “evil” in an apparent attempt to justify Russian attacks.
Footage from Russian television shared by NBC News reporter Raf Sanchez included a clip of the North Carolina legislator telling supporters to “remember that Zelensky is a thug” and “remember that the Ukrainian government is incredibly corrupt and is incredibly evil and has been pushing woke ideologies” as Russian forces continued their assault on Ukraine.
Mr Sanchez said Russian media has “jumped on” Mr Cawthorn’s remarks, which have played “over and over” alongside its coverage of the invasion.
Mr Cawthorn later clarified that the actions of Russia and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions are “disgusting” while accusing President Zelensky of promoting false narratives about the conflict “to entice America into another war.”
“I am praying for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people,” he said on Twitter. “Pray also we are not drawn into conflict based on foreign leaders pushing misinformation.”
He added in another message that he does “not want Americans dying because emotions pushed us into a conflict.”
Following President Zelensky’s address to a joint session of Congress this week, the congressman said the “Ukrainian people’s resilience in the face of Russian aggression” has “inspired the world.”
Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters on 18 March that “Madison is wrong” and that “if there’s any thug in this world, it’s Putin.” He said he supports his re-election.
On 17 March, eight House Republicans voted against suspending normal trade relations with Russia and Belarus, a move that strips the countries of key trade designations and gives President Joe Biden’s administration authority to increase tariffs against them.
GOP Leader McCarthy, asked whether a small group of far-right members of his party with large platforms have clouded Republican support for Ukraine, said simply “no.”
Russian media has also repeatedly aired segments from Fox News personality Tucker Carlson’s programme, on which the network star and the nation’s most-watched cable host posed questions to viewers such as “why do Democrats want you to hate Putin?” and “is Ukraine really a sovereign country?”
Mother Jones published a selection of reportedly leaked Kremlin memos allegedly instructing government-aligned media outlets that it is “essential to use as much as possible” clips of Carlson blaming Ukraine, the US, and Nato for the assault.
Carlson has also floated Russian-promoted false allegations that Russia has targeted US-backed “biolabs” in Ukraine, which has circulated among conspiracy theory communities and Kremlin propaganda.
Researchers at the Atlantic Council‘s Digital Forensic Research Lab have characterised Kremlin efforts to amplify such narratives as a means to justify attacks against Ukraine.
Russian media is likely to continue to “seize on certain segments, especially the American far-right, and to use them as proxies to convey their messages,” lab senior resident fellow Emerson Brooking told Insider.
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