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Putin meets mothers of killed soldiers

Russian President Vladimir Putin has met with mothers of Russian soldiers killed in combat in Ukraine as his forces continued attacks on Kherson.

November 26, 2022
By AAP
26 November 2022

President Vladimir Putin has spoken to a carefully selected group of mothers of Russian soldiers sent to fight in Ukraine who praised his leadership while 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 mobilisation announced in September.

Protests against the war and the enlistment drive have been crushed by force.

A salvo of missiles struck the recently retaken city of Kherson for the second day on Friday in a marked escalation of attacks since Russia withdrew from the city two weeks ago following an eight-month occupation. 

It comes as Russia has stepped up bombardment of Ukraine’s power grid and other critical civilian infrastructure. 

The Ukrainian governor of Kherson, Yaroslav Yanushevych, said on Friday that Russian shelling attacks killed 10 civilians and wounded 54 others the previous day, with two neighbourhoods in the city of Kherson coming “under massive artillery fire”.

The Russian shelling of parts of the Kherson region recently recaptured by Ukrainian forces compelled authorities to transfer hospital patients to other areas, Yanushevych said.

Some children were taken to the southern city of Mykolayiv and some psychiatric patients went to the Black Sea port of Odessa, which is also under Ukrainian control, Yanushevych wrote on Telegram.

Putin was shown in recordings on Friday meeting 17 women at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow to mark Sunday’s Russian Mother’s Day, sitting around a table laden with tea, cakes and berries and listening to their stories for over two hours.

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

“I would like you to know that, that I personally, and the whole leadership of the country – we 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 frequently clearing his throat.

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 parts of southern and eastern Ukraine that Russia now claims.

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

The mothers, from all over Russia and from different ethnic groups, in turn expressed thanks for his leadership and wished him well, before telling of sons who had fought or died with valour in the service of a noble cause.

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

Other relatives of soldiers killed in the war said the Kremlin had ignored their pleas for a meeting and that the one hosted by Putin would be carefully staged.

“The mothers will ask the ‘correct’ questions that were agreed beforehand,” Olga Tsukanova, head of the Council of Mothers and Wives, said in a message on Telegram 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 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,” Tsukanova said.

Russia last publicly disclosed its losses on September 21, saying 5937 soldiers had been killed. 

That number is far 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.

with AP

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