Russian President Vladimir Putin attended an overnight Mass at a church in Sochi in honor of Orthodox Christmas. During the service at Holy Trinity St. George Monastery, Putin knelt down and whispered something to a young boy sitting on the ground near his feet — a tender moment caught by a photographer.
But a photo apparently taken shortly after the exchange shows the wide-eyed boy staring ahead, possibly in fear, shock or bewilderment.
The before-and-after images have led to gleefully sinister speculation on Reddit about what Putin said to the child.
“I’m not Vladimir Putin, the real one is dead,” one Reddit user quipped.
“I killed Santa with my bare hands,” Reddit user Resfad wrote.
“I am your father,” several Redditors wrote.
At least one user offered a plausible explanation for the kid’s trauma:
“The boy may have been unaware that the president of his country was standing behind him until he knelt down to say hello. I’d probably have the same expression on my face if I was at some random function and Obama kneels next to me.”