Five months have passed since Vladimir Putin sent troops to Ukraine, and it’s been four months since Russia published any type of casualty count.
They claimed that 1,351 Russian soldiers were killed and did not update their information since.
There is no word on the disappearance.
Valentina Melnikova runs the Russian Committee of Soldier’s Mothers. She says that the families are not told where their loved ones have gone missing or what the circumstances were.
“‘Very rarely do some of them manage drag out of their people, details about the actual event.”
Svetlana, not her real name, last heard about her son at the end March.
She says, “They were withdrawing and there had been a battle.” My son was killed. The bodies were too numerous for them to retrieve. They were buried by the locals.”
She claims she was informed by her son’s military unit of his death, but Russia’s Ministry of Defence told her that he is missing.
She would like to bring his body home so that she can bury him. To get answers from the Kremlin, she has teamed up to help other mothers.
They meet us at Moscow’s Leningradsky Station.
Many have traveled long distances across Russia to deliver their appeal to President Putin. Each woman has a bag containing a stack of papers and plastic files that contains all the correspondence they have gathered in the wake of their husband’s disappearance.
Irina Chistyakova says, “No one hears us” and “No one wants to listen.” “I just can’t bear it anymore. “I’m only 44 years old, but I already feel like an elderly woman.”
Kyrill, her 19-year old son, went missing four months back. The photo above shows a young, smiling man wearing a traditional Russian fur hat, the military ushanka.
“Why was my son there?” ‘
He was only three months old when he joined the army as a conscript and was sent to Ukraine. He didn’t sign a contract, but he sent her a message on 22 February to inform her that he was going to exercise at the Ukrainian border.
She says that “He wanted to be a soldier, he wanted his motherland to defend him,” and now it appears like they were asked for help to restore independence of the Luhansk People’s Republic(LNR) as well as the Donetsk People’s Republic’s Republic.
“My son was missing in Kharkiv, please explain to me why he was there.”
According to the Ministry of Defence, it is not able to confirm if her son is missing or in prison. His name is not on any lists.
He will only be eligible for an exchange if he can prove that he is in a Ukrainian prison.
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“Invite Me to Ukraine!” She says, “Let me go through your camp. I will find my son. I will calm down.”
These women did not judge their husbands or sons’ actions in Ukraine. They want answers.
These might take a while.
Ms Melnikova stated that she had never seen such a situation in her history. She said, “Never have we ever faced this kind of situation with our inquiries with very specific questions receiving replies that had absolutely zero meaning.” None!”
The women are chatting outside the Kremlin administration buildings’ mirrored entrance.
They were told by the receptionist to return the next day because the office is closed Mondays. This adds another layer of bureaucracy that they have been fighting for months.
They agreed to meet up again in the morning.
Svetlana saddens, “Frankly I’ve lost all hope.”