Having gained notoriety for his Male State movement, which was deemed too radical, even for Putin, Vladislav Pozdnyakov has now come up in connection with brutal videos being shared online.
MOSCOW — A video has begun circulating online showing men in military uniforms with white ribbons — a typical symbol used by Russian military in Ukraine — killing a man who is in uniform and wearing Ukrainian insignia.
The faces of the men in the minute-and-a-half-long video are covered by masks. One of the men, presumed to be Russian, can be heard talking over a radio and gives instructions to a second man who carries out the killing with a knife. The victim can be heard screaming in the first part of the video.
Towards the end, a voice can be heard saying “Put it (the head) in a f***ing bag and send it to the commander.”
The origins and precise content of the apparent beheading video are unclear. What we know more about is how it began to circulate: it was first shared online by Russian influencer and misogynist Vladislav Pozdnyakov, the man behind the notorious Male State movement, which is known for its patriarchal, racist and nationalistic views.
How have Ukrainians reacted?
Commenting on the video, mayor of Mariupol Petr Andryushchenko said: “All this is beyond humanity. Understanding. Perception. Forgiveness.”
"This has happened a thousand times."
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced Russian “murderers," and said that “This is a video of Russia as it is… of Russia trying to make that the new norm, such a habit of destroying life. This is not an (isolated) accident or episode. This has happened earlier. This has happened in Bucha. (This has happened) a thousand times.”
"Everyone must react,” he continued. “Every leader. Don't expect it to be forgotten as time passes. We are not going to forget anything, and neither are we going to forgive the murderers.”
Who is Male State?
The video itself was first published on the Telegram channel of Vladislav Pozdnyakov, the founder of Male State.
After the video was distributed on Telegram, Pozdnyakov began to claim that he was not the original source of the execution footage: “Don’t blame me,” he wrote, “The video was doing the rounds on Russian chats before.”
However, a pro-Russian Ukrainian blogger Anatoly Shariy claimed that the channel which Pozdnyakov named as the original source was in fact also owned by him.
Another video, purportedly filmed by Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, was shared on April 8, before the execution video was published. It appears to show the beheaded corpses of two Ukrainian soldiers lying on the ground next to a destroyed military vehicle.
Russians shared the video of beheading a Ukrainian soldier.
Male State's incitement has attracted a large online following
Pozdnyakov founded Male State in 2016 on the Russia social media network VKontakte (VK). The group focused on trolling, harassing and threatening anybody they considered an opponent of their “national patriarchy,” especially women. These efforts led to Pozdnyakov being convicted of inciting hatred against women in 2018.
Male State has acquired a significant following as a result of their strong support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The movement has a significant following, with at least 62,000 subscribers. Pozdnyakov’s own channel has just shy of 100,000 subscribers. The group saw a significant increase in followers after Pozdnyakov's conviction.
Male State’s channel features anti-Semitic posts and calls for Ukraine’s leaders to be executed, which contradicts Russian President Vladimir Putin’s statements that one of the main aims of his country’s military action is the “denazification” of Ukraine.
Too radical for Russia
Although Russian authorities may have encouraged ultra-conservative movements for their own political ends, Male State was banned and designated an extremist group by a Russian court in October 2021. “Male State was simply too radical,” the Russian human rights activist Alexander Verkhovsky told Bellingcat after the court’s ruling. “(They) explicitly incited violence and other crimes,” Verkhovsky said.
“Beautiful,” one comment read.
On March 1, 2022, Male State posted an image of Russian forces shelling the Kyiv television tower. Five civilians lost their lives in the attack, including a journalist. “Beautiful,” one comment read. “We’re fucking rinsing the (Ukrainians),” another commenter wrote, using an anti-Ukrainian slur.This was by no means the only act of civilian harm that Pozdnyakov cheered. The same evening, the Male State founder posted a video of artillery fire lighting up the night sky during the Russian bombardment of Kharkiv, which killed and wounded many Ukrainians. “The disco of the century,” he wrote.