If you are Russian and inhabit the propaganda universe created by your president, Vladimir Putin, it must be hard keeping up with the reasons why your country had to attack and brutalize Ukraine.

At one point, Russia was forced to invade because otherwise NATO would have taken Ukraine. Then you had to attack because Ukraine isn’t a country at all, but part of Russia, which Ukrainians had forgotten. Actually, it was because the Ukrainians, including their Jewish president, are "Nazis." No? Well, they’re definitely terrorists. Come to think of it, Ukrainians are actually "satanists." So, just to be clear, Russia is fighting to stop the supreme ruler of hell, whatever name he uses — Satan, Lucifer or Iblis.”

Most people outside of Russia — and plenty inside, too — don’t know whether to laugh or cry at this parade of absurdities. But eventually we feel like sobbing, as we realize how the Kremlin is using these preposterous tropes and narratives. As the historian Timothy Snyder argues, Putin has all along been waging not only an old-fashioned colonial war but also an intended genocide.