President Putin, on Friday, held a meeting with carefully selected mothers of some slain Russian soldiers in the so-called special military operation in Ukraine. Putin’s residence in Novo-Ogarevo, not far from Moscow, was the venue for the meeting, which was the first of its kind since the February 24th invasion.
“I would like you to know that, that I personally, and the whole leadership of the country — we share your pain,” Putin said in his opening remarks. “We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son — especially for a mother.”
Putin said despite the losses, he has no regret starting a war in Ukraine as it was Russia’s way of standing up to the arrogance of the West after years of humiliation since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The Friday meeting came up following criticisms by mothers and other relatives of mobilised Russian men, especially on social media.
Putin praised the dead soldiers, describing them as heroes that died while defending a new Russia. Since the sham referendum, which makes Southern and Eastern Ukraine parts of Russia, the term “New Russia” has been used to describe the expanded Russian territory.
Beware of fake news, Putin warns
In recent times, western media and social media posts have portrayed Russia to be losing the war in Ukraine. The Russian troops were recently forced out of the city of Kherson and other strategic strongholds.
In an attempt to disregard what the internet says about the war, Putin urged the mothers not to trust online reports about the war in Ukraine.
“Life is more complicated than what you see on TV or the internet, where you can’t trust anything. There is a lot of false information, deception, lies,” Putin told the mothers.
“This has always been the case, but taking into account modern technologies, it has become even more noticeable and effective,” he added.
Since the war started, the Russian Federation has passed several laws to clamp down on the media’s portrayal of the Russian losses. To date, many still argue that most Russians are not aware of the actual situation in Ukraine, as Russian media has refused to report Moscow’s losses.
The selected mothers were Pro-Kremlin
About 17 women were in Friday’s meeting with Putin. That has caused some to ask if only 17 women have lost their sons in the more than nine months of the war in Ukraine. For Olga Tsukanova, head of the Council of Mothers and Wives, the meeting was nothing but a get-to-together organized for pro-kremlin mothers, with pre-arranged questions and answers.
“The mothers will ask the ‘correct’ questions that were agreed beforehand,” Olga Tsukanova said in a Telegram message before the meeting.
“Vladimir Vladimirovich — are you a man or who are you? Do you have the courage to meet us face to face, openly, not with pre-agreed women and mothers who are in your pocket, but with real women who have travelled from different cities here to meet with you? We await your answer,” Ms Tsukanova added.
“Are you going to keep hiding from us?” she asked.
Other mothers that pleaded to speak with the Russian president had their requests declined but were surprised that he was having the same meeting with other mothers.
One mother whose son was mobilised for the war said: “Please do not condemn us to a lonely old age.”
Another said: “I speak to you on behalf of all mothers in Russia of only sons, the only breadwinners. Even in Tsarist Russia, the only son was not taken from his mother. I beg you to pay attention to us.”
“This is a cry from the heart. It is my second month with antidepressants. I don’t know if I (will) survive this mobilisation,” the mother added.
Another mother said: “A single son for us is everything, our life, our oxygen, our air, the soul and the heart. Everything we live for.”
“Lonely mothers from all over Russia beg you for help,” she added.
How many soldiers have died in Ukraine?
The question of how many Russian and Ukrainian soldiers have died in Ukraine remains a mirage to ordinary Russians and Ukrainians. On September 21, Russia’s Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu, said almost 6,000 Russians had been killed. However, many believed the figure is far from the actual number of slain Russian soldiers.
The United States estimate that the two warring countries have lost at least 100,000 soldiers since the war started in February. Unlike Russia, Ukraine has not openly disclosed its losses. Both countries could be hiding their losses because the figures are too high to disclose.