Putin Ally Criticizes Lloyd Austin in Offensive Social Media Post

On Feb 25, Dmitry Rogozin posted a racist attack on US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on X. He was harshly criticized for the post, and then doubled down on his racism in a response.

The post

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“Before his illness,” Rogozin wrote, “US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin loved being photographed with pygmies.” 

The picture

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Attached to the post was a picture of Austin and a picture of two pygmy people standing next to a dead gorilla that is being hung from its wrists.

The racism

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Rogozin was apparently comparing Austin to a gorilla, a common racist trope used against Black people. The depiction of Black people as apes — or as the offspring of apes — was used by slave traders, eugenicists, and other figures for centuries to justify slavery, segregation, apartheid, and other racist and harmful policies.

Still around

Houston, Texas / United States of America – 08/2/2019: Photograph of The New York Times landing web page displayed on computer screen

In 2018, the New York Times noted that “a growing body of research shows that” the racist trope comparing Black people to apes “has maintained a pernicious grip on the American imagination.” The demonizing process, which can have effects even subconsciously, “often leads Americans to view African-American men as larger and more fearsome than they are.”

Fierce criticism

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“This is the official account of a Russian government official (Dmitry Rogozin) calling a black American politician a monkey,” one Kyiv-based security analyst wrote.

Appealing to his audience

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“Knowing his audience, Russian Senator, Putin’s henchman, Dimitri Rogozin appeals to US MAGA’s by comparing American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to a monkey,” a Russian media monitor posted on X. “The new pro-Russian twitter is fine with this.”

Verified account

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Rogozin’s account has been verified since October 2015. It currently has a gray checkmark, indicating that it “is a government or multilateral organization account.” 

Man in power

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Rogozin was the head of Russia’s space agency from 2018 until July 2022, when Putin dismissed him without explanation. 


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The 60-year-old Russian is somewhat infamous for his regular inflammatory statements, which he posts on X and VKontakte. On the latter site, he described Austin, Biden, and “other enemies of Russia” as “monkeys.”

Group head

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According to Rogozin, he heads the “Tsar Wolves,” an advisory group that offers “military-technical support” to units in the Ukrainian districts occupied by Russia. These areas now call themselves the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics, and are at the center of the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine. 

Frequent posts

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Rogozin has frequently posted support for Russian fighters, Putin’s war effort, and criticism of the West in general. In response to the ongoing EU farmer protests, for example, he claimed that “Paris wasn’t known for its tidiness before, but now it’s literally saturated with crap.”

More criticism

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“Behold, Dmitry Rogozin: a Russian Senator, a close ally of Putin, and the former head of Russia’s space agency,” a correspondent for PBS News Hour said.

Still active

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Though X’s policy specifies that users “may not directly attack other people on the basis of race,” Rogozin’s account is still active and verified a day after he shared the racist attack on Austin.

Doubling down

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In fact, several hours after posting his original attack, Rogozin doubled down, writing that “Monkeys should be called monkeys.” The additional comment accompanied a blurry video appearing to show groups of pro-Ukrainian protestors jumping, spliced with a clip of a line of monkeys dancing.


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“Former head of Roscosmos, member of Putin’s team Dmitry Rogozin posted a racist tweet about US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin,” one Ukrainian journalist wrote. “These people claim that they are carrying out ‘denazification’ in Ukraine. In fact, Russia itself needs denazification.”

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