Dozens Detained as Russian Soldiers’ Wives Call for Their Return from Ukraine
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By The Smartencyclopedia Staff & Agencies

In a poignant demonstration outside the Kremlin walls, wives and relatives of Russian servicemen mobilized for the conflict in Ukraine gathered to demand the return of their loved ones. The protest, marking 500 days since President Vladimir Putin’s order for a “partial mobilization” of up to 300,000 reservists in September 2022, saw over two dozen people, mostly journalists, detained.

The demonstration took place at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with the protesters laying flowers and voicing their plea for the return of Russian soldiers involved in the Ukraine conflict. The call for mobilization in 2022 had faced significant opposition, leading to widespread draft dodging, with many fleeing abroad to avoid conscription.

Organized by The Way Home, a campaign group advocating for the discharge of mobilized reservists and their replacement with contract soldiers, the protest saw the participation of wives, mothers, sisters, and children from across Russia. The demonstrators expressed their desire to have their loved ones back alive and campaigned against the continuation of the conflict.

One protester, identified as Antonina, highlighted her reluctance to accept compensation from the Russian government if her husband were killed. She expressed her emotional turmoil, stating, “I don’t want to live alone! And if (Russian authorities) don’t understand this … I don’t know. God be their judge.”

The demonstration, the ninth and the largest of weekly gatherings organized by The Way Home, drew support from various quarters, including allies of jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny and Russian opposition politician Maksim Kats. Despite warnings from the Moscow prosecutor’s office against participating in “unauthorized mass events,” approximately 200 people attended the protest.

According to OVD-Info, a website monitoring political arrests in Russia, 27 people, mostly journalists, were detained during the protest. While most were later released, one protester, Yaroslav Ryazanov, remained in detention.

The Russian military, facing public backlash, has increasingly sought to enlist more volunteers to bolster forces in Ukraine. However, the calls from wives and relatives to bring mobilized reservists home have faced resistance in Russia’s government-controlled media, with some pro-Kremlin politicians dismissing them as Western-influenced.

The demonstration comes ahead of the Russian presidential election scheduled for March 15-17, where Putin is expected to secure a victory. The protesters, after laying flowers at the monument, proceeded to Putin’s campaign headquarters to present their demands directly to him. Last month, a Russian presidential hopeful, Boris Nadezhdin, who opposes the war in Ukraine, met with soldiers’ relatives and criticized the decision to keep them in the ranks as long as the fighting continues.

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