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  • Writer's picturejohn kepler

Meet Vladimir Putin's child-snatcher in chief

The mother of 23 accused of being Vladimir Putin's child-snatcher in chief

With her wavy blonde hair, Russian Orthodox priest husband and 23 children - including one from Mariupol - Maria Lvova-Belova is a Kremlin pin-up.

Her social media profile paints a picture of a woman in love with the concept of traditional Russia and is filled with photographs of herself staring into the camera with doe-eyed sincerity.

For Lent in February, Ms Lvova-Belova, 38, posed inside a Russian Orthodox church wearing a traditional headscarf. “I would like to ask you, dear ones, for forgiveness, from those I have offended voluntarily or involuntarily. I was led into temptation!” she wrote.

When Vladimir Putin was looking to appoint an envoy for children’s affairs a few months before his invasion of Ukraine, this junior politician from provincial Russia appeared to be a perfect fit.


He appointed Ms Lvova-Belova as the presidential commissioner for children’s rights in 2021.


Born and raised in Penza, a town in central Russia, Ms Lvova-Belova is a former guitar teacher who switched to local politics.

She swiftly rose up the ranks before catching the eye of more senior Russian politicians and finally the Kremlin.

Ms Lvova-Belova, who has a taste for wearing delicate, floaty dresses, is often seen with Mr Putin at his speeches and rallies, and with his backing, she can command an audience with any fawning Russian official to push her agenda and mission.

Now she is one of the most recognisable women in Russia, enjoying the media attention and rarely missing an opportunity to flick her hair at a photographer as she cradles a scared-looking Ukrainian child.

She has also completed several missions to Ukraine’s occupied regions to organise the transfer of children, which she is careful to document.


Ms Lvova-Belova is brazen about promoting Mr Putin’s child abduction policy as a Russian rescue mission. In January she applauded a Ukrainian girl abducted into Russia who sang and danced on Zvezda TV, a Russian military channel.

Nastya from Donetsk is one of those children we found foster parents for,” she said. “Now she has a big family and a kitten that she has always dreamed of.”

In February, during a televised chat with Putin, she giggled and blushed when she admitted that she was so taken with the project that she had adopted a Ukrainian boy from the town of Mariupol, which Russian forces destroyed in March 2022.

“Now I know what it means to be the mother of a child from Mariupol,” she said to the Russian president as he grinned. “It’s a difficult job but we love each other.”

Putin nodded his approval. “This is the main point,” he said.

Russian media named the boy as Filip. He is the 18th child that Ms Lvova-Belova and her husband have adopted. They also have five biological children.

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