Every day they waited for five hours, but no one opened the door to make an appointment with the women or accept their written application.
“No one listens to us,” said Viktorija Sannikova, who came from Siberia to take part in the protest. – They are not interested in our problems. We knocked on their door for two months. This protest is an act of desperation.”
Finally, on November 15 the doors of the headquarters opened and the women were admitted. They handed officials nearly 100 letters and a collective appeal from relatives of about 400 conscripts currently serving in the western Belgorod region, which said the men were under constant fire from Ukraine and had suffered casualties.
Since Moscow’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24, women have been playing key roles in a small anti-war movement that has emerged in Russia. September 21 After President Vladimir Putin announced military mobilization, public dissatisfaction with the war grew.
Men were less likely to protest publicly, fearing and receiving reports that the police were sending arrested men directly to the military. The protest movement became increasingly female-dominated, in part because many men fled the country or went into hiding to avoid mobilization.
According to the data of the non-governmental organization “OVD-Info”, which monitors political repression in Russia, slightly more than half of the 1,383 persons arrested on September 21 in the country’s anti-mobilization protests, there were women. September 24 out of 848 persons arrested during such protests, 71 percent were women. Protests in Dagestan, Tyva, Bashkortostan and other regions were led by women.
October month. analysis published by Reuters showed that in the first weeks after February invasion at least 30 percent. of those charged with anti-war protests were women, compared to 11 percent in 2021 and 6 percent in 2019
“No Military Training”
In the city of Ulyanovsk, Volga region, on November 11. a group of women – the wives of men drafted in the mobilization that was announced on November 1 – gathered outside a military building and demanded that their husbands be taken out of the combat zone. They claim that the men were not properly trained and that their health problems worsened after being drafted into the army.
“People are afraid of disappointing their loved ones,” said Tatyana, the wife of a mobilized man from Ulyanovsk. – I myself did not participate on November 11. in the protest action, because I organized written appeals.”
“However, we received a response from the military prosecutor’s office in Ulyanovsk,” she added. – I got the impression that they didn’t even read our appeals. They wrote that there were no complaints – apparently my husband is in the hospital for no reason.”
Tatjana said that her husband wanted to be mobilized and even voluntarily came to the recruiting service, but he asked to postpone the mobilization because he was treating serious dental problems.
“There was no military training,” she said. – They have never even been to the shooting range here in Ulyanovsk. They spent a week learning the lines and then he spent a week in the hospital.”
“He applied for a deferment of service for medical reasons,” she said. – In the application, he explained that he was in the hospital – and he was not alone there. He submitted the request repeatedly – on October 8, 10 and 12. However, it was not really taken into account.”
Demands peace talks
Olga Tsukanova is the mother of a 20-year-old conscript from the Astrakhan region who participated in the protests in St. Petersburg. She said officials have tried twice to send her son to Ukraine and repeatedly pressured him to sign a volunteer contract, but they have so far successfully resisted those efforts.
“He is an ordinary civilian,” said O.Tsukanova. – I realized that if I don’t do something soon, he will be turned from a draftee into a contract soldier to participate in the war. They are constantly pressuring him, every day a colonel or some other officer comes and urges him to sign contracts.”
She said that in September her son did not speak to her for several days. When she called his department, she was told her son was undergoing “psychological tests.”
“When I realized something was going on, I started calling and they told me my son was on the mobilization list,” she said. – I told them that he was conscripted, and they said that he would voluntarily sign a contract and join the war in Ukraine. So I started sending requests everywhere, including the Ministry of Defence. And that must have had some effect because they didn’t send him.”
O.Tsukanova added that she believed that none of the soldiers in her son’s unit had been sent to the combat zone, perhaps out of a desire to avoid scandals, as protests against the deployment of conscripts are becoming more common.
“But I don’t know what will happen tomorrow,” she concluded, adding that she was worried that as soon as the draft period ended, he would immediately be mobilized for additional service. – I have only one son. What else do I have to lose?”
Tsukanova’s experience with her son led her to become one of the founders of the informal Council of Soldiers’ Mothers and Wives, which regularly sends complaints to Putin and military officials.
“We demand that the councils of mothers and wives in every city be allowed to inspect the military units where mobilization is being carried out and find out if they are properly trained or if medical aid commissions have been formed,” she said. – We also demand to start peace negotiations. Or at least for the country’s leader to move in this direction instead of threatening the whole world with the use of dirty bombs.”
She added that her organization held online meetings with participants from all regions of Russia. They communicate in closed social networking groups, mostly on Telegram. After the mobilization decree was signed, she said the group intensified its campaign of protests and complaints, which are generally ignored by the authorities.
“I don’t have any hope for the authorities,” she said. – My only hope is the people – that they will organize themselves and achieve some results. Our complaints are needed to force the authorities to do something and to prove to them that people are watching them. I am confident that we will achieve something.”
Tatiana from Ulyanovsk said she was disappointed in her country.
“We don’t have laws – or rather, they don’t work,” she said. – It seems to me that we are not living in a modern, but in a medieval society. All my appeals are ignored. When I ask for help, I’m told to keep quiet and wait for it to pass.”
“I feel like the world is falling apart and I can’t imagine what’s next,” she said.
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