Russian President Vladimir Putin tells a group of mothers whose sons are fighting in Ukraine that he shares the pain of those who have lost loved ones in the conflict.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has hit out at what he said were skewed media portrayals of Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine as he met with mothers of Russian soldiers fighting there.
"Life is more difficult and diverse that what is shown on TV screens or even on the Internet. There are many fakes, cheating, lies there," Putin said.
The meeting in the Kremlin with more than a dozen women came as uncertainty persists over whether enlistment efforts may resume in the face of recent battlefield setbacks.
Putin said that he sometimes speaks with troops directly by telephone, according to a Kremlin transcript and photos of the meeting.
"I've spoken to (troops) who surprised me with their mood, their attitude to the matter. They didn't expect these calls from me… (the calls) give me every reason to say that they are heroes," Putin said.
Putin told mothers whose sons are fighting in Ukraine that he shares the pain of those who have lost loved ones in the conflict.
At least one woman at the meeting wore a black headscarf, apparently marking a recent loss.
"I want you to know — I personally and the entire leadership of the country share this pain," Putin told the group ahead of Mother's Day, which is celebrated in Russia on Sunday.
"We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son, a child," Putin said.
He offered condolences to one of the women saying her son did not die "in vain" and reiterated his pledge to fulfill Moscow's goals in Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with over a dozen mothers of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine pic.twitter.com/P6a2tXZduQ— TRT World Now (@TRTWorldNow) November 25, 2022
Complaints of not being invited
Some soldiers' relatives have complained of not being invited to the meeting and have directly criticised Putin's leadership as well as the recent "partial mobilisation" that defence officials said resulted in 300,000 reservists being called up.
Olga Tsukanova of the Council of Mothers and Wives, a movement formed by relatives of mobilised soldiers, said in a video message on the Telegram messaging app authorities have ignored queries and requests from her organisation.
"We are here in Moscow, ready to meet with you. We are waiting for your reply," she said, addressing Putin directly.
Putin told the women that Moscow was fighting the "neo-Nazi regime" in Ukraine and warned that they should be wary of what they read on the internet.
"It is clear that life is more complex than what is shown on our TV screens or even on the internet, nothing can be trusted there," he said.
He also denounced what he called attempts by "the enemy" to "devalue (and) compromise" Moscow's tactics in Ukraine.
Not enough camouflage robes
National television broadcast some critical comments from mothers who attended the meeting, however.
One woman, whose husband and two sons went to fight in Ukraine, said there were not enough camouflage robes.
"The uniform becomes unusable very quickly, the trenches are muddy and damp," she added in televised remarks.
Another mother was shown on TV thanking Putin for "taking care" of the women.
The meeting — the first of its kind since Putin launched the offensive on February 24 — is a sign that the Kremlin takes the growing malaise seriously.