Damaged and destroyed Russian vehicles were on display in Maidan Square in central Kyiv, Ukraine, on Saturday.Credit…Jim Huylebroek for The New York Times
KYIV, Ukraine — Russian tanks rolled into downtown Kyiv on Saturday. But it was not the military posturing that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia might have envisioned when he set his army to invade Ukraine in February.
Instead, the tanks arrived on the backs of Ukrainian flatbed trucks, collected from the battlefields in the east and south, and put on display in a show of defiance.
Even as the daily air sirens wailed, cranes lifted the battered tanks and placed them onto the elegant thoroughfare that leads to Maidan Square in central Kyiv. Crowds gathered throughout the day, taking pictures. Children climbed on the rusted hulks of missile launchers and armored vehicles. Police officers and soldiers mixed with families strolling along the square — all in a moment of respite from a war that has killed tens of thousands of people and laid once-thriving cities to waste.
“I am glad it is sitting here demolished like this instead of out there killing people,” Eugene Sheptunov, 32, said at the hulk of one Russian tank that the Ukrainians had dubbed “The Witcher.”
Mr. Sheptunov, an information technology worker, was at the display with his wife, Olha, and daughter, Aleksandra, 10. They left Kyiv early in the war because of fighting there, but by the end of May had joined the growing ranks of people returning to the city.
He said he now volunteered to help get whatever supplies the troops at the front may need, including food and clothes. “Everyone is doing their part.”
Maidan Square has served for more than a century as a central plaza in the ancient city. When Ukraine was a part of the Soviet Union, it was called “Great October Socialist Revolution Square.”
In 1991, it was renamed Maidan Nezalezhnosti — Independence Square.
And in 2013, it was the center of nationwide demonstrations that eventually helped topple the government of President Viktor F. Yanukovych.
Now, as the country prepares to celebrate its Independence Day on Wednesday, Ukrainian officials are warning that Russia may use the occasion to demonstrate its military power. Mr. Sheptunov said he had heard the rumors.
“Of course I am a little worried,” he said. “But my family will be here. And I will go to the dentist that day.”
He took a few more pictures of the rusting hulks of a piece of artillery, and then took his daughter to get some ice cream.