I don’t like to get into numbers games about how many casualties, etc. War is war, and soldiers die. However, the best estimate I saw was from Brian Berletic on his “New Atlas” podcast, which you can find on youtube and Rumble. Using his best analysis and taking into account many factors, Brian estimates that, in the past 9 months of the war, something around 8,000 Russian soldiers have been killed. An average of around 1,000 per month, give or take. People can dispute these numbers; my main point being that it is not physically possible for the Russian President to meet personally with, and console, all 8,000 mothers of these soldiers.
Having made that point, today I have the story of Putin speaking with a selected group of mothers of Russian soldiers who lost their sons on the Ukrainian front. This is one of those sad but necessary political rituals that any wartime leader must perform. Looking at the photo, it seems like this was a morning meeting; and that the moms were treated with coffee, cake, fruit salad and pastries.
This meeting took place on Friday, Nov. 25, just 2 days before Russian Mothers Day, which is always celebrated on the last Sunday of November. Usually there are flowers.
We’ll start with this one, by reporter Andrei Rezchikov, who tells the story of Maria Kostiuk, who lost her son back in August.
Maria Kostiuk: “The main impression I took from the meeting: The head of our government is fully informed about everything. He knows everything there is to know about the equipment [of our boys], the oversights of the military departments, the combat battalions, the types of officers, everything. My son told me that he had the good fortune to serve under the kind of boss who did not treat his subordinates as simply soldiers [but rather had a fatherly attitude towards them]. The President is fully aware, just how painful it is for us mothers to talk about the loss of our sons, because it is simply impossible to pick the right words when speaking about our pain.”
Maria is not just any mom. She is the Deputy Chairman of the government of the Jewish Autonomy of the Russian Federation (Birobidzhan). Maria’s son was Senior Lieutenant Andrei Kovtun, who commanded a Company of motorized riflemen. It was on his second tour of duty that Andrei perished near the town of Spornoe, on the territory of the Donetsk Peoples Republic. According to Maria, her son fought at the front since the very start of the Special Operation and gave his life to save other soldiers. The very definition of a hero.
Maria: “The President’s words convinced me even more that my son died fighting for a just cause. I had never doubted it, and I also believe in this cause, which cost my son his life. And it meant a lot to me that the head of our government recognizes my son’s heroic feat and treats it with respect.
“He came home [in between deployments]. On July 29 he turned 26. He was ecstatic that he was able to celebrate his birthday at home, for the first time in 10 years. And then on August 4 he was off to the front again.” On August 10 Maria’s son was dispatched on a mission to help extract a reconnaissance unit that had fallen into an ambush near the town of Spornoe. “He dashed into the fray to help the other lads, gave them covering fire. He was able to save the sappers. Andrei himself was killed, but thanks to him others lived.”
Andrei left behind a wife and son, Maria’s grandson: “Grief does not care, if you are an entrepreneur, a teacher, or a bureaucrat. Grief cuts to the human heart. I am the mama of an officer. But I am also the Deputy Chairman of the government of the Jewish Autonomy. I am that bureaucrat that everyone writes about, how we hide our loved ones from the army; that we try to sabotage the mobilization. I don’t know where people get these ideas, the other bureaucrats that I am familiar with, there are many counter-examples [to that stereotype].”
Maria reports that each of the moms that she knows, deals with her private grief in her own individual way. Some volunteer at military locations, even at the front lines, not as fighters, but helping to organize humanitarian aid, that sort of thing: “My comrade mothers are goal-oriented, strong, courageous, they so well understand the importance of what is going on, that, when talking about their sons, they struggle to hold back their tears. Although, I have to say, that at this meeting, everybody cried without exception.”
In the course of the meeting, Putin told the mothers that he is personally in contact with many of the individual soldiers, that he talks to them over the phone, and is always impressed with their dedication and their businesslike attitude about their work. The President stressed that the entire nation shares the pain of those who have lost loved ones at the front. The Russian government pledges to support the bereaved families in any way that it can.
[to be continued]