January 30, 2023

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“Vladimir, answer us!”: Russian president’s reaction to concerns of military wives and mothers

For weeks, their videos have flooded the Russian-speaking Internet: mothers and wives of Russian soldiers mobilized to fight in Ukraine gather across Russia to demand President Vladimir Putin fulfill his promises.

After the Kremlin ordered a partial demobilization in September, it promised hundreds of thousands of conscripts would undergo solid training, receive better equipment and not be sent to the front lines.

But several violations were recorded: death before mobilization; mobilizing unfit men, fathers of large families, or the very old; Many veterans lack adequate equipment and military training.

This irregular mobilization forced the authorities to concede “Errors”Concern spread among relatives of soldiers sent to Ukraine.

This concern, which risks eroding into discontent, puts the Kremlin in a delicate situation: if the authorities relentlessly suppress any question about the attack in Ukraine, the word of soldiers’ wives is sacred and their imprisonment would shock Russia.

As a sign that the government is taking this seriously, Mr. Putin is due to meet the mothers of soldiers deployed to Ukraine for the first time on Friday. But some relatives are already anticipating a carefully choreographed meeting without discussing the merits.
Mr. Putin will meet “Mothers coming out of his shirt, asking the right questions and thanking him as always”Olga Sukhanova regrets, the mother of a young man doing his military service.

“Problem Solving”

“Vladimir Vladimirovich, answer our questions!”It starts with this woman who wants to make sure her 20-year-old son isn’t sent illegally to the front or to the Ukrainian border, where the bombs are also falling.
She made a special trip to Moscow from the city of Samara, 900 km to the east, hoping to be received by the Kremlin. in vain “I imagine they’re afraid we’ll ask uncomfortable questions. But we need to address the issue!”.

Answer by Vladimir Putin

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Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday during a meeting with mothers of soldiers stationed in Ukraine. “Share the Pain” Those who lost their sons called on them not to believe “lies” about the military operation.

“I, personally, and all the leaders of the country, want you to know that we share this pain. We know that nothing can compensate for the loss of a son.”Mr. Putin looked serious.

He said this year Mother’s Day will be celebrated in Russia on Sunday “Feelings of anxiety and worry”, Among the women concerned including “Thoughts are with their boys”.

“Life is more complicated than what you see on TV or on the Internet, and you can’t believe anything. There’s a lot of misinformation, deception, lies,” Mr. Putin made the announcement in front of veterans’ mothers. “This has always been the case, but taking modern technologies into account, it has become even more noticeable and effective.”He further condemned “Information Attacks”. The clarification echoes laws passed in Ukraine after the attacks began, which impose stiff prison sentences for those accused of broadcasting. “Fake News” Army or “Respect”.

Ask for accounts

The Russian president knows how sensitive the issue of soldiers’ relatives is.
When the Russian submarine Kursk sank in August 2000, killing 118 of its crew, he was heavily criticized and accused of slow reaction. Then he gave the first twist to the media.

During the two wars in Chechnya, the movement of soldiers’ mothers embarrassed those in power and reinforced a sense of discontent throughout Russian society.
This time, facing an environment of heightened repression, the protests of soldiers’ wives and mothers did not directly question the attack in Ukraine, but some condemned the conditions in which their relatives were sent there.

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Their status as mothers and wives of conscripted men who went to serve the country gives them legitimacy and protection against persecution, making them less likely to be treated as ordinary enemies.
In Russian society, “Women have an unconscious sense of entitlement” To hold power to account, notes Alexey Levinson, a sociologist at the independent Levada Center.

These women “Government must fulfill its + collective father + function of mobilized”, He adds. “When government or military commanders fail to fulfill their duties, women claim.”
For now, the movement is diverse, not unified. Calls from grieving relatives are broadcast on social networks, where informal groups gather around figureheads.

This is the case of Olga Sukhanova
In an environment of intense repression, other women fear that by speaking to the press they will get into more trouble or worsen the situation of those close to them, especially foreigners.

“We have sent official letters to the authorities.”One of them wrote on condition of anonymity to AFP. “It’s not journalists who are going to get our men out of the trenches, and we don’t want to cause them any trouble.”