IStories identifies children from Mariupol seen on stage during big patriotic rally-concert in Moscow

Media outlet IStories has identified the children from Mariupol who were shown standing on stage during the big patriotic rally-concert that took place in Moscow’s stadium Luzhniki on 22 February, as per the outlet’s website.


Volunteer fighter from the city of Chelyabinsk Yury Gagarin, call sign Angel, was featured in the event. The hosts of the rally-concert introduced him as the rescuer of 367 children from Mariupol. Journalists have discovered that some of the children standing next to him on stage had, in fact, survived the blockade and occupation of Mariupol.

The media outlet has found the family of 15-year-old Hanna Naumenko, who said from the stage: “Thanks to uncle Yura for saving me, my sister, and hundreds of thousands of children from Mariupol.” Her younger sister Karolyna was standing next to her and covering her ears because of loud noises. The girls’ mother was killed by shrapnel in Mariupol in April 2022, IStories reports.

Screenshot: IStories

Screenshot: IStories

The girls also have a younger brother Daniil. It is unknown what happened to him. People familiar with the family told the journalists that the children had been “regularly taken” from their mother Olha Naumenko but then “given back”. For example, the oldest daughter Hanna spent her childhood in an orphanage — her teachers’ social media pages feature photos of the girl in the orphanage up to 2015.

Witnesses told IStories that Olha had been killed at the beginning of April — she had been killed by shrapnel not far away from Mariupol’s hospital#4. She was buried on the grounds of the hospital. Afterwards, children were “evacuated” from the administration building of the Livoberezhnyi district of Mariupol where they were hiding from shelling.

Another child seen on stage on the right from Gagarin is 10-year-old Kostya Vaschishin, he is wearing a black hat and a grey jacket. According to IStories, his family is alive and Kostya and his parents Ihor and Krystyna currently reside in Mariupol. The three of them were also sheltering from shelling in the administration building of the Livoberezhnyi district.

According to the family’s former neighbour Mykhaylo, who spoke with IStories, the Vaschishin spouses previously condemned the war in Ukraine and the constant shelling. They did not want to leave Mariupol forever — just wanted to wait out the war in some other place. Mikhail speculates that the family is currently in Moscow “on a short-term business trip”.

According to IStories, at least three children that were seen on stage in the stadium had previously been featured on other Russian TV programmes with their mothers. For example, the girl in the pink hat and pink jacket from the screenshot is six-year-old Sasha, the daughter of 29-year-old Natalya Sitnik from Yalta, an urban-type settlement near Mariupol.

On 17 October 2022, Gagarin was pictured hugging and holding Sasha’s hand on a TV programme hosted by Andrey Malakhov. Her mother and her other four children were also featured in the episode. “Natalya and her daughter, indeed, were in the occupied Mariupol: photos of the girl are found in the 6 April report from the Livoberezhnyi district of the city of the so-called social movement ‘Donetsk Republic’,” IStories writes.

The boy in the blue jacket and the girl with braids in the white hat are children of Natalya Koval from Mariupol, she also made an appearance on Malakhov’s programme. During her episode, Koval said that she and her children were hiding from shelling in the basement of their private house.

The rally-concert dedicated to Defender of the Fatherland Day took place on 22 February 2023. Russian musicians, sportsmen, actors, and people who fought in the war in Ukraine all took stage at various points, with Russian President Vladimir Putin making a short appearance.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.
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