Putin tells mothers of soldiers killed in Ukraine: ‘We share your pain’

  • Putin meets mothers of soldiers, some grieving
  • Putin: I personally and the entire leadership share your pain
  • Russia has not fully revealed its losses on the battlefield
  • Some mothers say the Kremlin is ignoring more critical groups of relatives

LONDON, Nov 25 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin spoke on Friday to a handpicked group of mothers of Russian soldiers sent to fight in Ukraine, who praised his leadership as he told them their sons had not died in vain.

Tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the conflict sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, according to the United States.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians have been sent to fight in Ukraine – including some of the more than 300,000 called up as part of a mobilization announced in September.

Hundreds of thousands more have fled Russia to escape conscription, and discontent over the lack of equipment or training for soldiers or the chaotic nature of the mobilization can be found on social media. Protests against the war and the conscription campaign were suppressed by force.

Putin was shown on tape meeting 17 women at his residence in Novo-Ogarevo outside Moscow to mark Russia’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, sitting around a table laden with tea, sweets and berries and listening to their stories more since two hours.

Putin said he understood their anxiety and concern – as well as the pain of those who lost sons.

I would like you to know that I personally and the entire leadership of the country share your pain,” he said.

“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son – especially for a mother,” he added, breathing heavily and clearing his throat frequently.

Putin said he had no regrets about what he called Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine, which he described as the moment Russia stood up to Western hegemony after decades of humiliation following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they say is a war of conquest.


Putin praised the sons of women for defending “Novorossiya,” literally “new Russia,” a loaded term from the tsarist empire that modern Russian nationalists use to describe the large swathes of southern and eastern Ukraine that Russia now claims.

The president said he sometimes called soldiers to the front and that their words made them heroes in his eyes.

Mothers from across Russia and from various ethnic groups took turns expressing gratitude for his leadership and wishing him well, before telling of sons who fought or died bravely in the service of a noble cause.

“The special military operation brought us together,” Maria Kostiuk told him, before suggesting that the homes of fallen soldiers should get a star to hang on the door, as was the case in World War II.

Most filed complaints, but they were about low-level issues, such as the lack of good clothing for soldiers, the need for more drones on the front, or the indifference of some officials.

Nina Pshenychkina, a woman from Ukraine’s Donetsk province whose son died, said his loss had inspired her to work even harder to make the region – now unilaterally annexed by Moscow – part of Russia.

“Your son survived and his goal has been achieved,” Putin told her. “And that means he didn’t leave life in vain.”

Other relatives of soldiers killed in the war said the Kremlin had ignored their requests for a meeting and that Putin’s household would be carefully staged.

“Mothers will ask the ‘right’ questions that have been agreed upon in advance,” Olga Tsukanova, head of the Council of Mothers and Wives, said in a Telegram message beforehand.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich (Putin) – Are you a man or who are you?” Do you have the courage to meet us face to face, openly, not with prearranged wives and mothers in your pocket, but with real women who have traveled from different cities here to meet you? We are waiting for your answer,” Tsukanova said.

Russia last publicly disclosed its losses on September 21, saying they were 5,937 soldiers killed. This number is far below most international estimates.

The top United States general estimated on November 9 that more than 100,000 troops had been killed or wounded from every side. Ukraine does not disclose its losses.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Kevin Liffey; editing by Philippa Fletcher

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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