Video of Russian Kids Dressed as Soldiers, Tanks in Parade Sparks Outrage

Russian children paraded in military uniforms, outfitted in cardboard tanks and fighter jets in a video that circulated on social media ahead of Moscow's Victory Day parade.

Russia marked the 77th anniversary of its World War II victory against Nazi Germany Monday, amid the war in Ukraine that has raged for over two months. Although President Vladimir Putin did not use the occasion to formally declare war on Ukraine, as some Western and Ukrainian officials had feared, he continued to justify Russia's invasion of its neighbor as an extension of the fight against Nazism in Europe, calling the war a "special military operation" to "denazify" Ukraine.

A video circulating on Twitter Saturday showed young Russian children being led in a parade ahead of Monday's national celebrations. Originally shared by the account @RedLinkedIn, the clip has been viewed 1.6 million times.

Moscow Victory Day
Russia marked the 77th anniversary of its World War II victory against Nazi Germany Monday, amid the war in Ukraine that has raged for over two months. Here, a view of Moscow's Victory Day celebrations in 2015. Handout / Handout/Getty Images Europe

The children appeared to be about Kindergarten age and wore imitations of Soviet-era military uniforms. Leading the procession, a little boy plodded in a cardboard tank marked with a white "Z," the symbol that has identified Russia's military vehicles in Ukraine. His "vehicle" was flanked with a Russian flag.

Other children followed in mock tanks emblazoned with the "Z" and Soviet red stars. Two girls walked in fighter jet costumes. Bringing up the back was a cluster of children dressed as army medics, holding white balloons marked with the red cross. Three adult women, possibly teachers, marched alongside the children in their own Soviet-style outfits.

The clip was reposted by The Guardian reporter Shaun Walker, who wrote in his caption, "Child abuse."

The comments section below Walker's post exploded with outrage from viewers who decried the "indoctrination" of Russian children and "normalization" of the war in Ukraine.

"Grooming if I ever saw it," said one comment. "They obviously don't know about drones and javelins."

"It's a pity to see these children being manipulated like this," said another.

A third comment added, "This may be a new level of nationalistic ghoulery."

However, some viewers argued that it was extreme to call the parade "child abuse," since Victory Day commemorates a historic day in Russia every year.

"Sorry, I missed something. How is this child abuse?" asked one respondent. "As a small kid I'd do the same every year in the USSR for the anniversary of the country, and May 9th was also very dear to us, as most of us lost family in WWII."

"It's not child abuse," another viewer chimed in. "Today was Victory Day. It's as important to people as July 4th is to Americans, just for different reasons."

Newsweek reached out to @RedLinkedIn for comment.