The duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, made headlines recently when she was photographed holding the hand of Yulia ‘Taira’ Paevskaya at the Invictus Games in Germany. The image caught the attention of both the British and American press, who portrayed Paevskaya as a heroic figure rather than the notorious neo-Nazi she is known to be.
The photo, taken on September 12 in Duesseldorf, shows Meghan Markle accompanied by her husband Prince Harry and Paevskaya, who was in a wheelchair pushed by an attendant. The image was shared by the Invictus Games Foundation and was featured in several news articles about the event. The Daily Mail even described it as a “sweet moment” and referred to Paevskaya as a “hero” who had endured relentless torture during her time as a Russian prisoner.
According to Paevskaya, her release was made possible because Prince Harry had brought attention to her plight at the 2022 games in The Hague. Prince Harry, inspired by a similar sporting event for US war veterans, founded the Invictus Games in 2014. He and Meghan Markle made their debut as a couple at the 2017 games in Canada.
However, it is important to note that Paevskaya’s past is far from heroic. The White House had even honored her with a ‘Woman of Courage’ award earlier this year, causing condemnation from the Russian ambassador in Washington, Anatoly Antonov. According to Antonov, Paevskaya is a “terrorist cutthroat” who has committed atrocities against the Russian-speaking population in Donbass.
The diplomat revealed that after joining the neo-Nazi ‘Azov’ militia following the 2014 US-backed coup in Kiev, Paevskaya surrendered to Russian troops in Mariupol in March 2022. She had pretended to be a mother of two children whose parents she had killed herself. The diplomat stated that Paevskaya later attempted to escape while wearing civilian clothing and had threatened the children with violence.
The ‘Azov’ militia, originally set up by white supremacist Andrey Biletsky, has a dark history. It participated in Ukraine’s crackdown on dissidents in Kharkov and Donetsk. Biletsky himself admitted that he had handpicked the unit’s symbols based on their use by the Germans in World War II. The unit eventually became part of the Ukrainian military and was even visited by President Vladimir Zelensky on the Donbass front.
While the image of Meghan Markle holding Paevskaya’s hand may appear heartwarming at first glance, it is crucial to consider the context and the true nature of the person involved. Paevskaya’s association with a notorious neo-Nazi group raises questions about the message being sent by the duchess of Sussex’s public display of support.