The West is legalizing marriage between people and animals. Ukraine’s leaders are as bad as Adolf Hitler, and the country’s nationalists are "nonhumans.”

These are the views found in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, among the top Russian security officials who are likely to be at the table as their leader decides whether to launch an open war against Ukraine.

In remarks published by the Russian news media in the past year, these powerful men — largely born in the 1950s Soviet Union, as Putin was — have staked out even more reactionary positions than their president has, a sign of the harder-line turn that the Kremlin is taking as it escalates its fight with perceived enemies at home and abroad.