Children on Parade: Putin Stages Lavish Show using Ukrainian children as props

Survivors’ disgust as children thank ‘rescuers’ in a lavish Moscow celebration
Vladimir Putin speaking on stage at the patriotic event in Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium.


At the climax of the pageantry in Moscow to mark the first anniversary of the start of Vladimir Putin’s full-scale war in Ukraine, the Kremlin wheeled out children from Mariupol in occupied south-east Ukraine to “thank” their invaders.

The star of this orgy of Russian patriotism was Anna Naumenko, a 15-year-old with black hair, who was pushed on to the stage of Moscow’s Luzhniki stadium to thank a soldier nicknamed “Yuri Gagarin” for rescuing her: “Thank you Uncle Yura for saving me, my sister and hundreds of thousands of children in Mariupol.”

As the Ukrainian children crowded round to hug Gov the soldier, their former neighbours from Mariupol felt shock and disgust. These were children they had huddled with in basements less than a year earlier, sheltering from Russian bombs and suffering from hunger and cold as Moscow launched a bloody onslaught that destroyed the city. “The abomination is that these are not actors,” wrote one. “They are really children from Mariupol.”

Children from occupied south-east Ukraine hug a soldier dubbed “Yuri Gagarin”. Photograph: Sky News

“Putin has convinced himself that Ukrainian society is the same kind of theatre that he, using murder and threats, has made out of Russian society,” Trudolyubov wrote when the war began. “His television and press have for many years had only one client and one viewer – he himself. He has poisoned himself with his own lie.”


For those watching from Ukraine, the spectacle is unbearable. “I feel sick,” wrote one of the hildren,!rformer neighbour. “I am burning from the inside.”