Wives of Russian soldiers in Ukraine protest in Moscow, February 3, 2024 (SOTA)
Map: Institute for the Study of War
UPDATE 0740 GMT:
Russian proxy officials claim 28 people were killed and 10 injured on Saturday by Ukrainian shelling of a bakery in Lysychansk, in the occupied Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine.
The head of the “Luhansk People’s Republic”, Leonid Pasechnik, said the bakery was destroyed on Saturday afternoon.
A search and rescue operation is continuing on Sunday morning.
Lysychansk was seized by invading Russian forces in July 2022.
UPDATE 0732 GMT:
Russia has labelled human rights campaigner Oleg Orlov, head of the Nobel Prize-winning Memorial, a “foreign agent”.
The Justice Ministry said Orlov “opposed the special military operation in Ukraine, disseminated false information about decisions taken by public bodies of the Russian Federation, [and] participated in the creation of messages and materials for foreign agents”.
Orlov, 70, was fined last year for “discrediting the Russian armed forces”.
Memorial was the most prominent human rights organization inside Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. It preserved the memory of victims of Communist repressions, and campaigned against rights violations linked to Russia’s wars, including in Chechnya.
The organization was outlawed by Russian authorities in December 2021. Months later, it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2022.
ORIGINAL ENTRY: The Way Home, made up of wives of Russian soldiers in the Ukraine invasion, launched a week-long protest in the center of Moscow on Saturday.
Wearing white scarves, the women gathered with the demand that authorities return the men from the frontline. They were joined by the Anti-Corruption Foundation and opposition politician Maxim Katz.
The protest laid flowers at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Moscow and delivered their message at nearby Manezhnaya Square.
“It’s obvious that we are straining the authorities with our existence,” said Maria Andreyeva.
Holding carnations, traditionally placed on monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers in Russia, she explained, “Our problems have been constantly ignored, but we won’t let our men be forgotten.”
Another woman, requesting anonymity for her security, said, “I want justice, I want [the authorities] to set a definitive return date for our civilian men who had no military training. That’s my goal.”
Trying to limit coverage of the rally, police detained almost all male journalists, including those from the Russian media outlets Ostorozhno Novosti Sota.Vision, and Kommersant and from Agence-France Presse and Germany’s Der Spiegel.
The security forces also seized human rights activists. The Moscow Prosecutor’s Office had tried to prevent any crowd attending the protest, warning of liability for participation because the gathering was not coordinated with local authorities.
The Way Home members protested outside the police station, and authorities later released detainees without charges.
Could Pressure on Russia’s Military Work?
The Way Home staged its first street protest in Moscow last November. Ensuring visibility for their call for the return of husbands, the women demonstrated under the walls of the Kremlin three weeks, laying flowers.
There is a precedent for the effectiveness of the women’s movement. In 1989, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers was founded during the closing months of the decade-long Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. They campaigned in the late 1980s and early 1990s for better treatment of Soviet and later Russian conscripts enduring poor living standards and violence. They sought transparency within the military, particularly over deaths in the wars in Afghanistan and Chechnya wars.
The Soviet and Russian military were forced into changes in the 1990s, including the removal and prosecution of corrupt military commanders and officials in the military prosecutor’s office.
On Saturday, Vladimir Solovyov, the host of a high-profile propaganda show on Russian State TV, betrayed the concern of officials. He accessed the Way Home of lacking authority to speak on behalf of frontline Russian soldiers because they are wives and not mothers of soldiers. He said Russians instead had to hear from the husbands who are deployed in Ukraine.