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Wives of mobilized Russian soldiers hold rare protest at defense ministry demanding their return

In World
June 03, 2024

A group of about 20 women got down on their knees outside Russia’s Defense Ministry on Monday to hold a rare protest and demand the return of their mobilized soldier husbands and sons from Ukraine.

Groups of women who are the relatives of men who were mobilized into the Russian army by President Vladimir Putin have been holding small-scale protests for months.

The women behind Monday’s protest asked for a meeting with Russia’s new minister of defense, Andrei Belousov, to demand that the men be allowed to return home and that authorities impose limits on how long soldiers can serve before they can be granted leave. They are also demanding that mobilized men are replaced with contract soldiers who have agreed to fight.

Russian authorities labeled the group Friday as a “foreign agent,” following several protests. The designation is a tactic used by Moscow to silence dissent.

Videos and photos shared on social media showed a group of women, some with school age children and children in strollers kneeling outside outside the Defense Ministry holding banners. The child of one mobilized soldier was pictured wearing a T-shirt that read “Bring back dad.”

A woman who shared a livestream of the protest on social media said the protesters did not invite journalists because of fears they would be detained. However, one of the videos she shared showed a police van and police officers waiting by the Defense Ministry. She indicated the women later went home.

The solution to the problem, her post said, is to “finish” the war in Ukraine “and stop lying, or carry out a second wave of mobilization and also stop lying,” or to return the men who were mobilized.

Putin ordered a “partial mobilization” of up to 300,000 reservists following battlefield setbacks in Moscow’s full-scale war against Ukraine in September 2022. It sparked a rush for flights and long queues at Russia’s borders as men tried to flee.

Aware of the public backlash, the Russian military has since late 2022 increasingly sought to bolster the forces in Ukraine by enlisting more volunteers. The authorities claimed that about 500,000 men signed contracts with the Defense Ministry last year.

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