Russia's harsh purge against alleged 'Nazis' in occupied Ukraine follows Soviet playbook for rooting out real Nazis from Germany after WWII

Even as the Ukrainian military in September 2022 retook some territory lost to the Russian invasion, Moscow has been quietly fortifying the land it holds, which it intends to keep. Russian forces still control about 20% of Ukraine, and the Kremlin states it is not prepared to stop fighting.

The approach President Vladimir Putin has taken – and looks likely to continue to pursue – is in keeping with his false claims that he is “denazifying” Ukraine. In fact, as a scholar of denazification, the current Russian plans are strikingly similar to those the Soviet Union used during its military occupation of Germany after World War II.

Russia conducted a smaller-scale version of the expected political and cultural purge after invading Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula in 2014, immediately staging a rigged election that appeared to ask Russia to annex the region. A recently published report by government-run media outlet RIA Novosti lays out a similar plan for the rest of its Ukraine occupation.

Russia is following a Soviet-created playbook, and Moscow is likely to attempt to annex large swaths of eastern Ukraine, including most of the Donbas, and also install pro-Russian proxy officials in regions to the south.