Vladimir Putin met with the mothers of soldiers who had fought in Ukraine, telling them that he and all of Russia’s leaders shared their suffering.
The war in Ukraine has killed or injured tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, according to the United States, and the Russian invasion has sparked the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops have been sent to fight in Ukraine – including some of the more than 300,000 reservists who were called up as part of a mobilization announced by Putin in September.
Sitting with the group of mothers around a table with tea, cakes and bowls of fresh berries, Putin said Moscow shared the pain of those who had lost their sons.
“I would like you to know that I personally, and all of the country’s leaders, share your pain,” Putin said.
“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son – especially for a mother,” Putin said, breathing heavily and clearing his throat frequently. “We share this pain.”
The mothers listened to Putin’s remarks but their own comments to the president were not immediately shown in the taped TV clip.
Putin has said he has no regrets launching what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine and presents the war as a watershed moment when Russia finally withstood a arrogant Western hegemony after decades of humiliation in the years following the fall of 1991. The Soviet Union.
Russia last publicly revealed its losses on September 21, when Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed. But that number is well below most international estimates.
The US Chief General estimated on November 9 that Russia and Ukraine each had seen more than 100,000 of their troops killed or wounded.
Mother’s Day is celebrated on Sundays in Russia.
Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they present as an imperial-style war of occupation. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is expelled from its territory.
Putin’s meeting came as NATO reaffirmed its support for Ukraine, which has made significant gains in recent weeks around Kherson, a regional economic hub.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary general, said the military alliance “would not back down” in its efforts to provide non-lethal aid to Ukraine.
“NATO will continue to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” he said.
“We will not back down,” he told reporters in Brussels on Friday ahead of a meeting of alliance foreign ministers in Bucharest next week.
- Putin meets mothers of Russian soldiers
- Putin warns NATO over Finland, Sweden
- Putin meets mothers of killed soldiers
- Russia Must Cut Dependence On Foreign Technology: Vladimir Putin
- Putin Decries Media ‘Lies’ at Meeting with Soldiers’ Mothers