World

Putin tells Russian soldiers' mothers he shares their pain

November 26, 2022 8:02 am

[Source: BBC News]

“We share your pain,” Russian President Vladimir Putin has told a group of mothers of Russian soldiers who have been fighting – and some of whom have been killed – in Ukraine.

“Nothing can replace the loss of a son”, he said in his opening remarks, before the footage on state TV was cut.

The Kremlin has not commented on reports that the mothers were pro-Putin and carefully chosen for the meeting.

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Within Russia, opposition to his invasion of Ukraine has been growing.

Across the country, groups of mothers of serving soldiers have been openly complaining that their sons are being sent into battle poorly trained and without adequate weapons and clothing, especially as the bitterly cold winter sets in.

Some have also accused the Russian military of turning those forcefully deployed into “cannon fodder”, following a string of heavy military defeats in recent months.

Around 100,000 Russian and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or injured since the war began on 24 February, according to the most senior US general, Mark Milley.

In a rare admission, the Kremlin said in September that mistakes had been made in its drive to mobilise army reservists.

At Friday’s meeting at his state residence near Moscow, Mr Putin was shown sitting at a large table with a group of 17 mothers. Some of them wore dark headscarves – a symbol of mourning.

He told one mother her son had “achieved his goal” and “didn’t die in vain”.

Mr Putin said he wanted to meet the mothers face-to-face to hear from them first-hand about the situation on the ground.

And he revealed that from time to time he was speaking directly to Russian soldiers on the battlefield, describing them as “heroes”.

The president also urged the women not to believe “fakes” and “lies” about the raging war on TV or the internet.

While getting balanced news on the situation in Ukraine is difficult in Russia because of the Kremlin’s control over the media, many people have turned to using virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass the censorship.

Several of the women at the meeting were identified by opposition Russian media outlets as being part of pro-Putin movements. This was later confirmed by the Kremlin.

A transcript of the meeting released several hours later stated that the women were from different parts of Russia.

At least one was from the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic in eastern Ukraine, which Moscow declared annexed earlier this year.

A member of the Kremlin-backed All-Russian Popular Front was also there as well as a participant of the Combat Brotherhood organisation, which collects humanitarian aid for Russian soldiers.

A lawmaker from the governing United Russia party was also at the meeting, according to some opposition media outlets.