Russian President Vladimir Putin is preparing to conscript another levy of over 100,000 working people into Moscow’s army, after sending tens of thousands to their deaths, attempting to conquer Ukraine. Working people there are determined to defend their homeland as Moscow bombs densely populated urban areas daily and attempts to advance along the eastern front.
Putin says “Ukraine as a nation should not exist and that Ukrainians are a people who should not be allowed to live,” Volodymyr Hapun, a Ukrainian soldier defending the line near Kreminna in the east, told the Kyiv Post. Moscow sends its forces into battle “even though they may lose a significant number,” he said. Ukrainians “can’t afford that kind of attrition, because we cherish every soldier.”
Putin tries to justify his attempt to crush Ukraine by maligning its government and people as “fascists.”
Like many Ukrainians, Anastasia Zahorna “did not understand the scale of what was happening, even when I saw smoke through the window” of her home in Kyiv when the invasion began, she wrote in the Pittsburgh Observer-Reporter last year.
But today more than 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have died, mainly from aerial attacks. Zahorna and her family were forced to flee to the U.S., joining more than 8 million Ukrainians who have moved abroad since the war began. Nearly 6 million more are internally displaced inside the country. Tens of thousands have volunteered to join the fight to defend their homeland.
Zahorna’s father stayed behind in Gruzskoye to join an armed self-defense unit that fights alongside the Ukrainian army. “These groups defend residential buildings, districts of the city, or in the case of my dad, entire villages of people,” she explained. Such volunteer forces have been key in repulsing Moscow’s invasion.
Russian conscripts slaughtered
Protests by the families of Russian soldiers against their treatment grew soon after Putin called up 300,000 more troops last September. Demonstrations took place in November in St. Petersburg; the cities of Voronezh, Penza and Vladimir around Moscow; in Vologda in the north; and elsewhere. Family members demanded the army brass withdraw their sons, fathers, husbands or brothers from the front.
“Draftees were not supposed to be on the frontline, but they were sent there like cannon fodder,” Kristina, the wife of one soldier, told the Moscow Times. Putin admitted a month after the call-up that about 50,000 new recruits were at the front. Now he intends to draft 147,000 more.
“I am a law-abiding citizen, born in the USSR. I am conditioned to trust people in power,” Irina Chistyakova, the mother of a Russian soldier, told ABC News last month. “So in April  I believed them. But in June I stopped believing them,” after her son Kirill went missing in March 2022. He remains in captivity in Ukraine.
Chistyakova joined the Council of Soldiers’ Mothers and Wives, which protests the government’s treatment of soldiers. Its leader, Olga Tsukanova, called Putin a coward for refusing to meet with her. Since then, she says, she has been followed by state security and detained.
“Basically they are closing the mouths of mothers,” she said. These methods “they’ve used them for years, but without taking account that there’s a limit to everything.”
Families have to fight to discover what has happened to their relatives who have gone missing, as news of the war and its casualties is suppressed. When they discover their men are alive, it then takes another fight to have their names added to the Kremlin’s list of POWs, who are eligible for a prisoner exchange.
Alina Maksimovskaya told the Moscow Times that she discovered her boyfriend, Andrei Zavyalov, was a prisoner of war when she saw interviews the Russian soldier gave on Ukrainian TV. Since then Zavyalov has been released.
Almost 10,000 Russian soldiers have attempted to surrender via a special hotline set up by the Ukrainian government. To try to deter this, Moscow adopted a law making “voluntary” surrender punishable by up to 10 years in prison.