Vladimir Putin is using an “unexpected tool” to sell his war to the Russian people, says Emma Bubola on The Daily: Ukrainian children. Since the invasion, an estimated 16,000 kids have been subjected to “systematic removal” from Ukraine – mostly orphans from “group homes” – then relocated to Russia and adopted by families there. One 14-year-old, Anya, tells me she’s living with foster parents she calls “aunt” and “uncle”. She shares her room with two foster brothers, which is “fun” because she used to be “scared to be alone”. The family “treat her nicely, they do crafts together, they go to parks and walk the dogs in the evenings”.
At school, Anya attends “patriotism classes”, where kids are taught “how to be proud of Russia”. They’re given “virtual tours” of Crimea to justify the Kremlin’s annexation. And they’re told that “Ukrainian identity isn’t real” – that they themselves have always been Russian, and that Putin’s invasion is merely “correcting a historical mistake”. These children are gold dust for the Kremlin’s propaganda campaign to portray Russia as the “saviours of Ukraine”. They constantly feature on TV news reports, being given teddy bears and talking about how happy they are to be in a Russian family. It’s the perfect tool to peddle Putin’s “whole mythology”. “Russia is rescuing Ukraine”, just like its families are “rescuing these children”.