RUSSIA

Russian Powerlifting Teen On A Bizarre Tour Of Syria

Russian Maryana Naumova, a teenage wunderkind, selfies her way through Bashar al-Assad's Syria

RUSSIA
Maryana Naumova's page on Russia's version of Facebook, VKontakte — VKONTAKTE
Feb 19, 2017 at 11:30 AM ET

A teenage Russian powerlifting champion, Maryana Naumova, is on a bizarre tour through President Bashar al-Assad’s Syria. In a country that’s suffered more than 400,000 casualties and nearly 7 million displaced people, the teenage tourist is gushing over new friends and new cities, posting glorified pictures of her experiences on Vkontakte, the Russian version of Facebook.

In Damascus, “couples are walking on the streets, kids are playing soccer in the street near the hotel—all only a few miles away from a war zone,” she posted to her 85,000 followers. Aleppo is “without water, without light and heat, but the main thing, without terrorists! I see barrels of water, generators, and cleanliness on the streets.”

Naumova, an ardent member of Russia’s Communist party who has “fully endorsed” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s campaign in Syria, has been dubbed the “princess of the barbell” and the “strongest girl in the world” since she first start lifting at the age of 10.

Since then, the teen has regularly commented on world events on social media — including her latest foray into Syria.

Translation: “Chariots of the desert …
A few kilometers on our right are “Jabhat Fath al-Sham,” on our left is ISIS.
About 100 kilometers to Aleppo! 
Let’s get to work, brothers!”

Her trip took her to the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, which was the epicenter of the country’s brutal, years-long civil war. In late December 2016, thousands of civilians fled Aleppo as Syrian government forces, supported by Russian air strikes, retook the city. The joint Syrian-Russian coalition killed more than 440 civilians, including more than 90 children, and was accused of war crimes by the international NGO Human Rights Watch.

Russia’s intervention into the Syrian War began in 2015. The country initially said its priority would be attacking the terror group ISIS, which was gaining footholds in the chaos of the war. But, Russia soon was providing more general military support for the regime of the embattled President Assad.

Naumova posted cheerfully about “old Soviet machine guns that helped ward off militants from an ISIS checkpoint a few hours ago, chasing them across the field and destroying them.”

This isn’t Naumova’s first time getting involved in controversial world politics.

In 2015, Naumova toured rebel-held eastern Ukraine on a self-described peace mission. She’s also visited North Korea, and made a prior trip to Syria, also in 2015, on the invitation of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad, who introduced her to local children, athletes, and female soldiers.

As of Sunday, Naumova continued to post on her social media page from Aleppo, to the adoration of her fans.

Translation: “In training.”