December 11, 2023

Russian state TV host Sergey Mardan ranted that being Ukrainian was a choice and compared it to swearing an oath to the devil.

Speaking during his show Mardan Live, the TV host bemoaned calling people Ukrainians in a move that could be considered an attempt to undermine their national identity, according to a translation by Russian Media Monitor created by Daily Beast reporter Julia Davis.

“Totally voluntarily, for some inexplicable reason, we call those who live in Ukraine Ukrainians,” Mardan said in the October 28 clip. “By ‘we’ I mean the average people, in conversations, in social media, on television, almost all of my colleagues, for some reason, call those living in Ukraine Ukrainians.

“I am totally amazed by this. Right now to be a Ukrainian is a political choice. This is a completely deliberate choice. This is a political choice. A person stands in front of the mirror, looks in the mirror, and says, ‘I am a Ukrainian.’ He swears some kind of an oath and slits his vein, I don’t know all that they do during it.

“It’s just a ritual,” Mardan later continued. “It’s like swearing an oath to the devil. You denounce Christ and say, ‘Now I am a Ukrainian.'”

Mardan also said he believed that a family who insists upon studying Ukrainian in Russia in 2023 should be placed under “special scrutiny by the security services.”

Newsweek has contacted the Kremlin and Michael Clarke, a professor at the War Studies Department at King’s College London for comment via email.

The Atlantic Council, a U.S.-based international affairs think tank, said in an August 10 report that there was evidence Russia was escalating genocide in Ukraine, including by inciting language.

“This inciting language is horrifying on its own, as it calls for the erasure and destruction of Ukrainians through graphic slurs and threats,” the report said. “However, Russia’s actions in Ukraine have mirrored the violence of rhetoric coming out of Moscow.”

The language used to delegitimize Ukraine and deny its status as a nation independent of Russia has occurred with regularity following the country’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Mardan questioned Ukraine’s territorial integrity in his show and referred to eastern Ukraine as “Novorossiya” (New Russia), the same name for the territory conquered by the Russian Empire in the 1700s and encompassing much of southern mainland Ukraine.

“The territory that was created by the blood and sweat of the Russian people as a result of a historic injustice, first it ended up as a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic and then as part of the independent Ukraine.”

A Ukrianian flag
A Ukrainian flag on September 26, 2023, in Kyiv, Ukraine. A Russian state TV host has compared anyone declaring their Ukrainian identity as a person swearing an oath to the devil.

Mardan has previously called for the reinstatement of the Russian Empire and said it should be the country’s ultimate goal.

Last month, the host, who is known for his provocative statements, also bemoaned Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and compared it to a drug user, saying: “We have lived like druggers with torn up veins,” but then described the transformation to an empire as “something wonderful, something frightening.”