Regional administrators in Russia, who have been made responsible for carrying out the “partial mobilization”, are trying to make amends for the coffins returning from the front line. The administrations are attempting to console people on a budget, and their initiatives appear highly disingenuous and out of place – mothers who have lost their children in the war are given towels, cakes, canned meat and cheap tea. The Insider took a closer look at how the Russian state pays off the families of the mobilized.
Towels and cakes
On the eve of Mother’s Day, regional authorities in Kursk presented mothers and wives of dead Russian soldiers with a set of towels and a cake. “The head of the Lgov district Sergei Korostelev met with the mothers of the fallen servicemen who took part in the special military operation,” the district administration reported. It was Korostelev who personally handed out the gifts. The event triggered a backlash in the media and social networks, and the Kursk regional administration had to react to it by criticizing Korostelev.
“The head of the district should draw conclusions and not allow such indifference and actions that discredit the authorities,” the administration's press service told state-owned news agency TASS.
“This case is the very example of non-compliance with moral and ethical standards by local authorities. Perhaps the attempt to support the mothers was driven by positive motives, a desire to support the families, but this personal initiative of the head of the district achieved the opposite effect,” the Kursk authorities told the publication Podyem, calling the incident “a negligent attitude towards people who have suffered an irreparable loss.”
Canned meat, buckwheat, and tea
In Tatarstan, the mothers of the mobilized were also given presents on Mother's Day – towels, however, were not part of their gift sets. Each of the 112 women received rice, buckwheat, cheap tea, candy, condensed milk, wafers, canned meat and sprats. The journalists estimated that the cost of the set was a little over 1000 roubles ($16).
In the Chelyabinsk region, the mothers of drafted soldiers received a postcard. “On the eve of Mother's Day, all of the city’s educational institutions held events dedicated to this holiday. The format of events was diverse: concerts, master classes, and contests. On behalf of the head of the municipality Nikolai Shymanovich, mothers whose husbands were took part in the special military operation, were given greeting cards,” said Olga Lytkina, team leader at“We Are Together” (My Vmeste) organization supporting the families of servicemen participating in the so-called “Special Military Operation.”
10 thousand roubles and a photo report for a dead husband
Photos of women standing with money in their hands began appearing on social media almost immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine. The wives and mothers of the dead soldiers were handed 10,000 roubles (close to $160) each, and were then photographed for a photo report (often against the background of the letter Z – a symbol of support of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine). The images were heavily critized on social networks, but have continued to appear regardless. Yevgeny Skrypnyk, an associate of Igor Girkin (Strelkov), is likely using them for his reports. On 17 November 2022, Girkin was found guilty for the murder of 298 people in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, convicted of all charges in absentia, and issued a life sentence by the Hague District Court.
Skrypnyk also often publishes photo reports about purchases for “Novorossiya fighters” that were made thanks to “help from our friends.” For example, the purchase of three small infantry blades, medicine for a wounded fighter for 1,800 rubles ($30), a camouflage net or sleeping bags – all purchases are accompanied by a mandatory photo report.
“Community Medal” for the death of a son
In Bratsk, the mothers of fallen soldiers were awarded with a “community medal” titled “To the Mothers of a Defender of the Fatherland.” At the presentation, deputy mayor for social issues Marina Zubakova said that the military died “seemingly in peacetime,” while they fought “for the independence of our motherland.”
In a report about the award, the announcer says that the mothers “now pray for all the sons of the Fatherland,” as they will not get their sons back.
“We honor mothers who raised not just boys, not just sons, but defenders of the Fatherland,” Zubakova said. “They raised heroes who literally gave their lives for the independence of our homeland in the seemingly peaceful postwar era. Not only during the localization of some internal conflicts in our country, but also in foreign operations. They should be recognized and acknowledged, their names should be known. It was the mother who gave life to the hero we honor, and whose name we will immortalize and remember forever.”
Medals for dead sons every Thursday
Across Russia, mothers of military personnel killed in Ukraine are presented with Orders of Courage. They are awarded so often that, as Andrey Letunov, the military commissar of the Volgograd region, said, it has become a tradition to give out the medals for the deceased on Thursdays. In August, the “tradition” had to be broken – the medals were handed out not on Thursday, but on Tuesday – as a batch of medals for dead paratroopers suddenly arrived.
“We already have a tradition of handing out awards to relatives of the dead every Thursday. Today we received the awards for military paratroopers. At the request of military veterans, we’ll hand them out without following our usual schedule. The delivery of the awards to families of the deceased paratroopers will take place this very day,” Letunov said on August 30.
A meeting with Putin
The mothers and wives of dead soldiers don’t only receive 10 thousand roubles – some women were even allowed to see Vladimir Putin, who personally told them that the fact that their sons “chose such a fate” is “the result of your work, without any doubt.”
In the photo and video reports published by the Kremlin, the women are seen smiling and laughing. Seventeen women attended the recent meeting with Putin. The Telegram channel We Can Explain (Mozhem Obyasnit) identified some of them as functionaries of pro-government movements, government officials and representatives of United Russia – the country’s ruling party.
Meanwhile, mothers whose sons were actually killed in Ukraine or whose sons are still alive but begging to be saved continue to record video appeals to Vladimir Putin. So far, they have not been able to get through to the president – even virtually.