The manifesto talks about the duty of citizens to defend their Motherland; however, something else is more important: “we are offering the Russian world [russkii mir
], but what did it turn out to be? It seems that we took a wrong turn somewhere. The question is: can we still get off the road?”The Kremlin’s reaction
This looks like a no-win situation for the Kremlin both in substance and in form.
Offers of new benefits, money (there have been reports in the Russian media that the Kremlin is suggesting that governors “pay off”
the protesting relatives of mobilized soldiers) and help with getting children education are not working very well – women are demanding that their husbands be brought back, having realized that every additional day at the front is another risk that their husbands will come back as “Cargo 200.”
The authorities cannot use harsh police measures against the wives of combatants – they cannot disperse them with batons. And the police are unlikely to do that even if they received the order. Just recall the protests by mothers in Dagestan
during the mobilization last year, when the police failed to intimidate them.
Though currently citizens look at the protesting women with silent sympathy, in the event of attempts at harsh suppression, will indifference be replaced by solidarity – as was the case in December 2013 on the Maidan in Kyiv, where harsh measures were used against protesting young people?
The usual methods for the Kremlin – persuasion, “muzzling,” intimidation – do not work against mobilized soldiers’ wives, because it is the lives of husbands and sons at stake, and the women who have decided to speak out openly are ready to go to the end.
Appeals and protests from wives and mothers are spontaneous and happening in many cities: Moscow, St Petersburg, Voronezh, Kemerovo, Krasnoyarsk, across Leningrad region, Nalchik, Novokuznetsk, Novosibirsk, Rostov-on-Don, Cheboksary and Chelyabinsk, among others. Of course, they are more visible in big cities, where the number of participants is obviously larger.
No one is organizing the protests “from above;” they do not have any headquarters making decisions, which makes it difficult for the authorities to deal with them. So far, the Kremlin is being helped by the fact that the mobilization announced last September affected major cities to a lesser extent, and the provinces to a much greater extent. Back then, the authorities were seeking to minimize resistance to and the costs of mobilization.
It’s as if gunpowder has been scattered across the country. And everything can go up like a forest fire.
The authorities cannot make individual concessions by bringing certain people home – this would only strengthen the resolve of other women. They cannot let everyone go either, as this would require a new mass mobilization, which, for political reasons, is impossible before the elections.
In September, Duma Defense Committee Chair Andrei Kartapolov did not leave mobilized soldiers’ relatives hope
for their imminent return: “they will come home after the completion of the special military operation. No rotation is envisaged.”
Meanwhile, the General Staff, after a request by Children’s Rights Ombudsman Maria Lvova-Belova, explained
that it is impossible to set a term of service for mobilized soldiers owing to the stretched resources of the Ministry of Defense, along with concern for mobilized soldiers’ families themselves. “If the term of service of those called up under the mobilization is restricted, a radical change in the training system for military personnel will be needed, requiring significant time and effort, which the Russian Armed Forces do not have in the context of the special military operation.” The General Staff’s response also states that if a term of service is set for mobilized soldiers, their status will change, meaning they will receive a salary of only R 2,000 a month. “This will lead to a catastrophic drop in the income of families of called-up military personnel and increased social tension.”