Ukraine war: Putin tells Russian soldiers’ mothers he shares their pain

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Ukraine war: Putin tells Russian soldiers’ mothers he shares their pain

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Russian President Vladimir Putin meets mothers of soldiers fighting in Ukraine. Photo: 25 November 2022
Image caption,Vladimir Putin met mothers of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine

By Jaroslav Lukiv

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 carefully chosen for the meeting.

Opposition has been growing to Mr Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine.

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Across Russia, 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 winter sets in.

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

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

Earlier this month, Mark Milley, the most senior US general, estimated that about 100,000 Russian and 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed or injured since the war began on 24 February.

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.

“I want you to know that I personally, and all the leadership of the country, we share this pain,” the president said.

“We’ll be doing everything so you won’t be feeling forgotten,” he added, urging them not to believe “fakes” and “lies” about the raging war showing on TV or the internet.

Soon after Mr Putin launched the full-scale invasion, Russian authorities brought in tough censorship laws against the media, criminalising “dissemination of false information” about its armed forces.

Media outlets face fines or even closure for calling it a war – the Kremlin describes the invasion as a “special military operation”.

That means balanced news can be difficult to get in Russia, leading some people to use virtual private networks (VPNs) to bypass the biased state-run media coverage.

On Friday, President Putin also said he had wanted to meet the mothers 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”.

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Analysis box by Steve Rosenberg, Russia editor

In recent weeks mothers and wives of Russians drafted into the army have been posting collective video messages complaining about how their sons and husbands have been sent off to war untrained and ill-equipped. Some women have been appealing directly to President Putin, the commander-in-chief, to sort things out.

The “Putin meets mothers” event seems to be an attempt by the Kremlin to convince Russians that their president cares about the soldiers he’s sending into battle, as well as their families.

“We understand nothing can replace the loss of a son, a child,” Mr Putin said. “Especially for a mother, to whom we are all i

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