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Putin accused of staging event with handpicked relatives of Russian soldiers, as Kremlin attempts to quell anger over Ukraine war

Business Insider logo Business Insider 11/24/2022 sankel@businessinsider.com (Sophia Ankel)
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Yerevan, Armenia, on November 23, 2022. Contributor/Getty Images © Contributor/Getty Images Russian President Vladimir Putin in Yerevan, Armenia, on November 23, 2022. Contributor/Getty Images
  • Putin is expected to meet with families of Russian soldiers to quell their fears over the war.
  • But many believe the Kremlin is handpicking relatives to avoid confrontation, The Guardian reported.
  • The meeting comes as families of drafted Russian soldiers are growing more critical of the war.

Two months after the Kremlin ordered a partial mobilization of Russia's reservist troops, President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with mothers and wives of men who were drafted, the Kremlin said on Tuesday.

But some are suggesting that attendees are being purposefully handpicked in order to stage little more than a publicity stunt for the Russian president, according to The Guardian.

Many in Russia have grown more critical of the war amid ongoing reports that mobilized Russian soldiers are being deployed in Ukraine with little training, poor equipment, and often no clear orders.

It's unclear when exactly the meeting will take place, but Russia celebrates Mother's Day on November 27.

Two major advocacy groups told The Guardian they have not been invited to the planned event. 

In a video blog posted online earlier this week, Olga Tsukanova, the co-head of the grassroots movement Council of Mothers and Wives, accused Putin of "hiding" from them.

The group has petitioned the Kremlin to halt mobilization and return men from the front.

"Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin], are you a man or what?" Tsukanova said in the video, according to The Guardian. "Do you have the courage to look us in the eye, not with hand-picked women and mothers in your pocket, but with real [women], who have traveled from various cities here to meet with you?"

"We are waiting for your answer! Or will you hide again?" said Tsukanova, whose son was drafted but has resisted being sent to Ukraine, The Guardian reported.

Valentina Melnikova, a veteran advocate of the NGO Soldiers' Mothers Committee, told The Guardian that they have received thousands of complaints since the start of Russia's invasion on February 24.  

"Of course, they didn't invite us [to the event] and we of course don't want to go," she told The Guardian. "To go together with the relatives of mobilized [soldiers] who agreed to their husbands and sons dying on the front is not comfortable for us."

Hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers have been sent to fight in Ukraine, including some of the more than 300,000 reservists who were called up in September.

Problems that Russian troops are facing in Ukraine have been amplified by their wives and mothers at home, who have started posting complaints on social media and appealing to regional authorities, The Washington Post reported.

One woman told The Post last week that she had to give her television away because the war in Ukraine, where her husband had been sent to fight, was making her aggressive. 

"I am just an ordinary woman and I want to live in peace. That's all I want," the woman said.

 The news comes just weeks after Russian troops withdrew from Kherson, the first major city and only regional capital in Ukraine captured by Moscow since the start of its invasion.

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