Published On: Tue, Jan 30th, 2024

Vladimir Putin faces protests from unlikely foes demanding return of soldiers from Ukraine | World | News

Vladimir Putin is facing a rare form of dissent in the heart of Russia, as groups led by mothers and wives are demanding their loved ones to return home from the front.

The Russian President angered thousands of women, many of whom were previously his supporters, by walking back on the promise not to mobilise the country to beef up the troops fighting in Ukraine.

In September 2023, one year after Putin announced a partial mobilisation of Russia, the first group of Russian women demanding the return of soldiers emerged.

Angered by the announcement men continue to serve until the end of the war, these women started coming together on social media platforms such as Telegram and online chats, before structuring their movement under the name of Put Domoy (The Way Home).

Almost two years after Ukraine was invaded by Russian troops, these women now hold regular protests across Russia – including in Moscow, in front of the Kremlin.

In a country where people face punishment for protesting the war – still referred to as “special military operation” in Russia – these women are putting the spotlight on their country’s unhappiness.

What makes these protests even more groundbreaking is the fact that many of these women come from a working class and conservative background rather than a liberal one.

While before the mobilisation many of these protesters were Putin voters, the Russian President’s decision to send their husbands and children to war has opened their eyes to the country’s suffocating propaganda and pushed them to seek out voices opposing the Kremlin.

Speaking about The Way Home, journalist Pjotr Sauer told the Guardian’s Today in Focus podcast: “Protests have been attended by a few thousand women, they come from a more working class background, many would have described themselves as supporters of Putin before the war in Ukraine.

“I have spoken to three wives and all of them said they had no problem with Putin until their husbands were taken away and until they saw that the government had lied to them. One of them said: ‘They have lied about my husband, what else are they lying about?'”

Russian authorities repeatedly denied the Kremlin was considering a mobilisation in the run-up to Putin’s announcement in 2022. On September 21, 2022, the Russian President announced Russia‘s first partial mobilisation in the country since World War 2.

The mobilisation prompted protests across Russia, quickly crushed by authorities. Independent protest monitoring group OVD-Info reported at the time that, within just hours of Putin’s speech, more than 650 people had been arrested at protests against the mobilisation.

Despite the crackdown on dissent, everyday Russians have managed to express their unhappiness at the war on multiple occasions.

The UK Ministry of Defence noted last week that Russian authorities had reported more than 220 attacks on military enlistment offices since the beginning of the invasion.

While Russian Foreign Intelligence Service Director Sergey Naryshkin blamed the attacks on people acting on behalf of Western officials, the MoD believes the increase in these protests is “highly due to a greater sense of disaffection with the war amongst the Russian population and especially those who would be mobilised should a second wave of mobilisation be announced”.

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