Russian Activists and Journalists Targeted After Putin’s Call for Purge of ‘Traitors’

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Russian activists and journalists discovered threatening messages painted on their apartment doors on after Vladimir Putin delivered a speech calling for a “self-cleansing of society” from “scum and traitors.”

“Don’t betray your country, bitch,” read one message painted in white on the front door of a journalist’s apartment.

Anna Loiko, a journalist for the opposition news site SOTA, which has closely covered protests against the war in Ukraine, was among those targeted. Activists Dmitry Ivanov and Olga Misik also received such messages, which featured the symbol “Z” that Russia has tried to use to drum up support domestically for its all-out war against Ukraine.

Putin’s World War Z Has Created a New Swastika

“This is the message left for me by anonymous ‘defenders of the homeland,’” Ivanov wrote on Telegram alongside a photo of his defaced door.

“My apartment has undergone cosmetic procedures,” Misik quipped on Twitter.

The anonymous messages come less than 24 hours after Putin’s Wednesday speech which publicly cheered on the “self-cleansing of society” that has happened inside Russia as a result of the Kremlin’s devastating war against Ukraine. Many prominent Russians left the country, while hundreds were detained and charged for protesting Moscow’s aggression.

Claiming that the West is relying on “national traitors” inside Russia to divide the country with their “slavish consciousness,” Putin took aim at those who have echoed calls from the international community to stop the war. He bashed those with ties to the West and accused them of cozying up to Europe and the U.S. to feel like they belong to a “higher caste.”

Russian people “will be able to distinguish true patriots from scum and traitors and simply spit them out like a fly that accidentally flew into their mouths,” he said.

“I am convinced that such a natural and necessary self-purification of society will only strengthen our country, our solidarity, cohesion and readiness to respond to any challenges.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday stood by those remarks, and appeared to confirm the reports of activists and journalists being intimidated with spray-painted messages.

“Well, you know, in such difficult times and in such responsible, emotionally elevated situations, a lot of people show their true colors. And so many people show themselves… as traitors. They disappear from our lives,” Peskov said in an interview with Meduza.

Some such people simply leave the country, while others “violate the law” and get punished for it, he said, adding that: “This is how the cleansing [that Putin spoke of] happens.”

Asked whether Putin’s notion of a “cleansing” had anything to do with the acts of vandalism against those who’ve spoken out against the war, he said that was likely just a result of people who support the president “emotionally” expressing themselves.

“Very many want to support the president not just emotionally, but in a meaningful way. They’re the overwhelming majority.”

While stifling criticism of the war at home, the Kremlin on Thursday also defied an order from the United Nations’ highest court demanding that Moscow halt its war against Ukraine.

Peskov told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency that the Kremlin would not “take this decision into account.”

“The international court has such a concept as the consent of the parties. There can be no agreement here. In this case, this is something that we cannot take into account,” he said.

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