“Vladimir, answer us!”: Russian soldiers’ wives and mothers roar

In September, the Kremlin ordered a partial mobilization of Russian troops. But several violations were identified, which fed the anxiety of their relatives. Tempers are now building and putting the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin in a bad position.

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DFor weeks, their videos have been flooding the Russian-speaking Internet: mothers and wives of Russian soldiers mobilized to fight in Ukraine gather across Russia to demand that President Vladimir Putin’s promises be honored.

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. The irregular demobilization, which pushed officials to admit “mistakes,” spread anxiety 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.

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Mr. Olga Tzukanova, the mother of a young man who is doing his military service, regrets that Putin “meets mothers from his sleeve, who, as always, ask relevant questions and thank him.” “Vladimir Vladimirovich, answer our questions!” “She wanted to make sure her 20-year-old son wouldn’t be sent illegally to the front or to the border of Ukraine, where the bombs are falling,” says the woman. 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 think they’re afraid we’ll ask bad questions.” I imagine. But we have to solve the problem! “.

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. 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, “there is an unconscious sense that women have rights,” notes Alexey Levinson, a sociologist at the independent Levada Center. She adds that these women “are demanding that the state fulfill the ‘collective father’ function of the mobilized.” “When the government or military commander does not perform their duties, women complain”.

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For now, the movement is diverse, not integrated. 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 to AFP on condition of anonymity. “It’s not the journalists who are going to get our men out of the trenches, and we don’t want to cause them any trouble. ยป

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