Far-right commentator Candace Owens declared that "Russian lives matter" on Twitter, amplifying a slogan that the Kremlin has used as part of its disinformation efforts.
Owens, declaring that it is "appalling how Russians are being treated in America and abroad," garnered the attention of Russian embassy, which retweeted her message.
The phrase "Russian lives matter" has been promoted by Russian operatives associated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA) who have simultaneously encouraged supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and advocated for violence against the group.
In a piece for Foreign Policy in 2020, the historian Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon that the development of the "Russian Lives Matter" social media movement, which has been employed by Russian activists who've spoken out against police brutality at home, "is perhaps the strongest example of how the liberal opposition in Russia has unwittingly aided its government in subverting a global anti-racist effort."
But this disinformation is significantly more pernicious.
Julian-Varnon observes that the hashtag #RussianLivesMatter "has been used to undermine the American fight against systemic racism by downplaying the impact of racism against African Americans, by suggesting police killings of Black Americans were deserved, and by framing empathy towards victims of police violence in Russia as a zero-sum game," satisfying the Kremlin's objectives.
The fact that the Russian embassy endorsed Owens' statements exposed her to significant criticism.
Owens' tweet comes amid reports that Russia is experiencing a brain drain as many professionals, believing that their lives in Russia are over, have fled the country in protest of President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.
More than 25,000 Russians have arrived in Georgia alone in the weeks since the invasion began and a New York Times piece notes that "Tens of thousands of Russians have fled to Istanbul" in recent days. Russians have also begun to pour into Armenia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, and the land border with Latvia.