Ukraine war: Russia faces growing anger from wives and mothers of mobilized troops

Desperate to save their sons and husbands from the front lines in Ukraine, Russian women are pressuring the Kremlin in the latest sign of growing discontent over the war.
The scattered efforts of wives and mothers took off after Vladimir Poutine ordered the recall of 300,000 reservists on September 21, forcing authorities to be careful. Regional governors have met with activists and promised to help them, and the Russian president plans to hold a session with them as early as this week.
As the war enters its ninth month, Putin’s efforts to shield his population from the costs of fighting are running out of steam in places and the Kremlin is rushing to lessen the impact where it can. Authorities promise money and other benefits to the families of those called up and pledge to ensure they are properly equipped and cared for.
Demonstrations against the sending of relatives mobilized to the front took place in at least 15 regions, the largest near the border with Ukraine, according to data collected by Verstka, an independent media which is one of the few to cover the movement. The families’ demands are generally non-political, focusing on ensuring that their men receive adequate training and equipment and are supported at the front.
They received high level attention.
Putin urged officials earlier this month to ensure concerns are addressed, promising to “talk to people myself to get feedback” on the situation.
Governors of some regions near the Ukrainian border have promised to help, although activists have said results have been limited so far. Other officials flatly rejected the appeals, saying soldiers at the front were “alive and healthy”.
“These people don’t want to stop the war, they want to improve the conditions of the soldiers,” said Ekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist and member of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. “But because of this, it is more difficult for the authorities to ignore them or label these manifestations as extremism or foreign influence.”
Opinion polls show that support for the war has declined from the highs seen in its first months, before Ukraine’s counteroffensive forced Russian troops to abandon large swathes of territory. Anxiety skyrocketed at the announcement of the mobilization, which triggered an exodus of no less than half a million Russians from the country.
Soldiers’ mothers have been a political force in Russia for decades as activists sought to save conscripted sons from abuse. The movement gained strength in the 1990s, seeking to bring back soldiers sent to fight in the Chechnya region. This time, a group claiming to represent families said it has supporters in 89 cities.
State television did not pay much attention to the families’ protests, which were widely discussed on social media. Videos of angry wives heading to the war zone to save their loved ones have circulated widely on social media, although none have been officially confirmed.
In a video call published by Verstka on 9 November, the wife of one of the conscripts said his company commander revealed that only 30 out of 200 men had made it to safety after coming under fire in Lugansk, in eastern Ukraine.
In another video posted a day later by a group of 20 women on Russia’s border with Ukraine, they vowed to go to the front to get their husbands and sons and brothers back. “If they don’t come to help us, we will leave, including a pregnant girl,” said one, adding that their relatives were without bulletproof vests or helmets and were dragging injured comrades with them.
In the midst of official testimonies of sympathy, the authorities are cracking down. One group said authorities had threatened one of its activists, a primary school teacher, with arrest if she did not remain silent. Conscripts are also warned that their family members should stop protesting.
On Nov. 22, a soldier from Siberia’s Altai region who appealed to the governor in a video for proper equipment and training for his unit apologized and thanked officials for providing the military kit. necessary.
“We jumped to conclusions, I apologize. We were fully equipped,” he said in the message posted by regional authorities on Telegram.

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