HomeWorldPutin tells mothers of soldiers killed in Ukraine: 'We share your pain'

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

  • Putin meets mothers of soldiers, some of them next of kin
  • Putin: ‘I personally, and the entire leadership, share your pain’
  • Russia has not fully disclosed its losses on the battlefield
  • Some mothers say the Kremlin ignores more critical relatives

LONDON, Nov. 25 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin spoke on Friday to a hand-picked 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.

According to the United States, tens of thousands of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the conflict sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians have been sent to Ukraine to fight – 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 dissatisfaction with the lack of equipment or training of soldiers or the chaotic nature of the mobilization can be found on social media. Protests against the war and the recruitment campaign have been violently crushed.

Footage showed Putin meeting 17 women at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on the occasion of Russia’s Mother’s Day on Sunday, sitting around a table laden with tea, cake and berries, and listening to their stories for more than two hour.

Putin said he understood their fear and concern – and the pain of those who had lost sons.

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

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“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 has said he has no regrets about what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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

‘HE DID NOT REPRESENT LIFE’

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

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

The mothers, from all over Russia and from different ethnicities, in turn thanked his leadership and wished him well, before telling of sons who had fought valiantly or died in the service of a noble cause.

“The Special Military Operation brought us together,” Maria Kostyuk told him before proposing to star the homes of fallen soldiers to hang on the door, as they had done in World War II.

Most of them did file complaints, but they were about low-ranking issues, such as a lack of proper clothing for the soldiers, the need for more drones at the front or the indifference of some officials.

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

“Your son has lived 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 pleas for a meeting and that the meeting arranged by Putin would be carefully arranged.

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

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

Russia last publicly announced its losses on September 21, saying 5,937 soldiers had been killed. That number is well below most international estimates.

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

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Principles of Trust.

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