Soldiers’ relatives protest Putin’s war on Ukraine

By Roy Landersen
January 22, 2024
Wife of Russian soldier fighting in Ukraine protests outside government offices in Moscow Jan. 6. Her sign says, “Get the mobilized soldiers home! Down with conscription slavery!”
SOTAWife of Russian soldier fighting in Ukraine protests outside government offices in Moscow Jan. 6. Her sign says, “Get the mobilized soldiers home! Down with conscription slavery!”

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war to conquer Ukraine and its people has failed to dent the determination of working people there to defend the country’s sovereignty. Resistance to the war and its consequences continues to rise inside Russia.

Despite this, Putin hopes the Russian Federation’s three-times-larger population and greater resources will ensure his forces outlast Ukraine’s. Seeking new troops without large conscription, Putin signed a decree Jan. 4 fast-tracking citizenship applications for foreigners, including the tens of thousands children his forces have kidnapped from Ukraine.

As the government has turned Russia’s economy to prioritizing war production at the expense of making things working people need, protests have surfaced.

Residents of Podolsk, a town outside Moscow, took to the streets Jan. 4 after 21,000 people lost power and heat in subzero temperatures. The outage was the result of a burst pipe in an ammunitions plant where company officials initially refused to report the incident. Protesters demanded authorities restore their heat, as well as punish those responsible.

“The police arrived quickly to disrupt us. I wish they’d brought back heating as fast as they dispatched the cops,” a resident said in a video of the protest.

Russian conscripts’ wives protest

For months, anger has grown among families of reservists called up in Putin’s Sept. 21, 2022, mobilization. The reservists remain at the front with no prospect of troop rotation, unlike prisoners who “volunteer” to serve in the army for six months with a promise of freedom when they’re finished.

Some 15 women, wives of Russian reservists, laid flowers Jan. 6 at the flame of the unknown soldier at the Kremlin. In St. Petersburg, a similar action was held. They demanded their husbands be brought home from the front.

Their protest is “the only peaceful action that has not yet been banned by law,” Paulina, one of the Moscow demonstrators, told Agence France-Presse. “We shall carry on every day, every Saturday,” she said. “At some point, it will be impossible to ignore us.”

Another soldier’s wife held a solo picket outside the Ministry of Defense the same day.

“I’m not afraid to talk about it. I’m not afraid to fight because the worst thing that could happen has already happened,” she told the website of The Way Home, an organization of soldiers’ relatives. “More and more wives, mothers and sisters are beginning to understand that their inaction could get their husbands or brothers killed.”

Police have so far only issued warnings to the soldiers’ relatives, not the detentions, fines and imprisonment normally used against anti-war protesters. The Kremlin knows that despite its patriotic propaganda, the war is not popular. Another call-up of reservists, to allow rotation and replenish troops killed over the last year, could easily lead to wider protests by working people.

Russian state media is instructed to ignore the women’s protests. The Kremlin seeks to uphold a facade of national unity backing what Putin continues to call a “special military operation” as March presidential elections near.

The Way Home has gained more than 37,000 followers on its Telegram channel in support of calls for the demobilization of reservists.