World

Putin tells mothers of soldiers killed in Ukraine: ‘We share your pain’

  • Putin meets the mothers of soldiers, some of whom are bereaved
  • Putin: I personally and the entire leadership share your pain
  • Russia did not fully count its losses on the battlefield
  • Some mothers say the Kremlin ignores the most important groups of relatives

LONDON (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin on Friday met more than a dozen mothers of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine and told those who lost his children that he and the entire leadership shared their suffering.

The war in Ukraine has killed or wounded tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, according to the United States, and Russia’s invasion triggered the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

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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 the mobilization Putin announced in September.

Meeting with 17 women at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo outside Moscow to celebrate Mother Russia’s Day on Sunday, Putin appeared in a short pre-recorded clip sitting with them around a table laden with tea, cake and bowls of fresh berries. Many smiled when Putin entered.

Putin said he understands the anxieties and anxieties of soldiers’ mothers – and the pain of those who have lost sons in Ukraine.

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“I would like you to know that I personally, and the entire leadership of the country – share your pain,” Putin said.

“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son – especially for a mother,” he added, breathing heavily and repeatedly pounding his throat. “We share that pain.”

The mothers heard what appeared to be Putin’s introductory remarks, but their comments on him did not emerge immediately.

Putin has said he feels no regrets about launching what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, describing the war as a watershed when Russia finally stood up to an arrogant Western hegemony after decades of humiliation in the years after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they describe as an imperial-style war of conquest. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is expelled.

“Fake, deception, lies”

In what appeared to be an attempt to counter online reports about problems with Russian forces in the war, Putin urged mothers not to trust the internet.

“You can’t trust anything there at all, there are all kinds of falsifications, deceptions and lies,” Putin said.

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He praised their sons for standing up for what he called Novorossiya, literally “New Russia,” a loaded term from the Tsarist Empire that modern Russian nationalists use to describe the swath of southern and eastern Ukraine now claimed by Russia.

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

But some relatives of soldiers killed in the war said the Kremlin ignored their pleas for a meeting.

“The mothers will ask the ‘correct’ questions that were previously agreed upon,” Olga Tsukanova, head of the Council of Mothers and Wives, 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, frankly, not with pre-agreed women and mothers in your pocket, but with real women who have flown here from different cities to meet you? We are waiting for your answer, “said Tsukanova.

The last time Russia publicly disclosed its losses in the war was on Sept. 21, when Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 Russian servicemen had been killed. This number is much lower than most international estimates.

The United States’ top general estimated on November 9 that Russia and Ukraine had seen more than 100,000 soldiers killed or wounded. Ukraine does not disclose its losses.

(Reporting by Jay Faulconbridge). Editing by Kevin Levy

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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