A group of terminally ill Russian children have been forced to stand outside in the snow in a “Z” formation in a desperate, Vladimir Putin-inspired propagandist show of support for the Ukraine invasion.
The children and their mothers were made to pose for a photo outside a hospice in the city of Kazan, in southwest Russia, over the weekend, the Telegraph reported.
The letter “Z” has become a pro-war symbol in Russia since President Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Vladimir Vavilov, chairman of a cancer charity in the city, said he snapped the startling photo of the sick children on a drone and shared it on the hospice’s website.
“Our patients and entire team took part in it, about 60 people in total. People lined up in the form of the letter ‘Z’,” Vavilov said.
“In our left hand we held leaflets with the flags of the LPR, DPR, Russia and Tatarstan and we clenched our right hand into a fist.”
LPR and DPR refer to the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk in Ukraine that Putin has recognized as independent states.
The stunt involving the ill children immediately sparked outrage on social media as some accused Russia of sinking to a new low with its “propaganda.”
“Terminally ill children in a hospice in Kazan, Russia were made to go out in the snow and make a letter Z in support of the war… I have no words,” one Twitter user tweeted.
Others called it “outrageous” and argued that “propaganda does not know what conscience is.”
“Russia forced sick children to go outside in the cold to line up in the letter “Z”. Russians, will you continue to just look at this and remain silent?” one Twitter user questioned.
The photo of the ill children is among the latest instance of Russians using the pro-war symbol to show support for their motherland.
Russian tanks emblazoned with the letter “Z” have been rolling into Ukrainian cities throughout the invasion.
High-profile nationals, including Russian gymnast Ivan Kuliak and secret agent Maria Butina, have also boasted of wearing a “Z” on their clothes in recent days.