Support struggle of the Ukrainian people to defend their independence

By Roy Landersen
January 1, 2024
Protest by soldiers’ mothers and wives in Novosibirsk, Russia, Nov. 19. Sign says, “I am disabled, return my son, there is no one else to look after me.”
MobilizationnewsProtest by soldiers’ mothers and wives in Novosibirsk, Russia, Nov. 19. Sign says, “I am disabled, return my son, there is no one else to look after me.”

At his end-of-year press conference Dec. 14, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that the aims of his invasion of Ukraine “have not changed” despite the fierce resistance his forces continue to face. Working people in Ukraine are determined to defend the country’s independence.

The day before, Moscow unleashed missile and drone strikes on Kyiv and Odesa targeting Ukrainian infrastructure. Putin continues to claim Ukraine is part of Russia. He threatened the conflict would be “resolv[ed] by force” in a long, bloody war unless the Ukrainian government capitulates.  

Last year’s press conference was cancelled so Putin didn’t have to acknowledge Moscow’s battlefield defeats. His forces had been pushed out of half the territory they had occupied at the start of the invasion. Today the front lines of the war have been static for many months. Putin plans to win a long war of attrition over the blood and bones of working people in both Russia and Ukraine.  

The annual press conference was intended to let people air grievances and create the impression Putin is giving consideration to their concerns about the impact of the war. In fact, it is a stage-managed sham, with the government continuing to imprison its main political opponents as well as anti-war protesters. 

Still some uncomfortable questions got through. Flashing up on a giant screen on the stage, one said, “Why does your reality differ from ours?”  

Opponents of the war continue to speak out. Members of The Way Home, a group of wives and mothers of mobilized reservists, are demanding the return of their loved ones from extended service at the front.  

In a Dec. 18 statement, the group told Putin, “We Russians have no hope left under your leadership.” It urged his government to “sit at the negotiating table” with Kyiv.  

“Let us live in peace! Or go to the front line yourself and die there.”  

At his press conference, Putin admitted that troop rotation is “a burning issue.” But if the Kremlin were to relieve troops without a fresh mobilization, its forces would be seriously weakened. A new mobilization, however, would be deeply unpopular and likely set off protests in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other cities, like those that followed the mobilization the regime decreed last September.  

Today Putin claims “1,500 volunteer fighters [are] being recruited every day throughout the country.” This is largely from police raids at centers where Central Asian migrants gather or work. Thousands of prisoners also have been induced to sign up in return for freedom if they survive six months at the front.  

Putin is gambling that the Russian Federation, with a population more than three times that of Ukraine, and with the economy being cranked up for war, can outlast Ukraine’s working class. He is also banking that Washington and its allies will waver in their financial and military support to Kyiv, and this will pressure the Ukrainian government to concede territory.  

Congress is divided, for now, on the latest U.S. aid package to Ukraine. But however that is resolved, the U.S. rulers will continue to act as they have done since the start of the war, to advance their own interests.  

Mothers and wives of soldiers in Russia have a well-earned reputation for organizing opposition to the deadly consequences of the regime’s wars. Their protests helped bring an end to the decadelong occupation of Afghanistan by forces from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. This, in turn, helped bring down the Stalinist regime there. During the 1994-96 war in Chechnya, relatives of soldiers held protests and collected signatures across Russia to demand their sons be brought home.  

A video of remarks by a Russian soldier accompanied The Way Home’s Dec. 18 statement. The soldier, who called himself Alexander, criticized Putin for ignoring the group’s request to impose a one-year service limit for 300,000 Russian men who were mobilized last year. He said he had watched Putin’s press conference “and there’s no hope.”  

“How cynical do you have to be to continue this mayhem and put on a brave face?” The Way Home asked Putin. “Will you not stop until you kill all the young people?”  

“Will you be having a good time ringing in the New Year with your close ones and a glass of champagne?” the group said. “Well, not our boys.”