October 11, 2023

"Our Men Are Not Slaves; Bring Them Home"


"Our Men Are Not Slaves; Bring Them Home"
Readiness check of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division. Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, Wikimedia Commons

Wives and mothers of Russian mobilized conscripts organized a massive flash mob, a call to return reservists home. However, rather than gathering in person, this flash mob occured in the comments section of an online broadcast of Vladimir Putin’s speech at the Valdai Discussion Club.

Messages from relatives of the mobilized expressed deep concern that their loved ones have been stationed at the front for over a year. "Our men are not slaves; bring them home," wrote one concerned relative. Simultaneously, authorities have initiated measures to block resources where relatives of the mobilized have been coordinating their appeals in the comments sections of official statements and in private chats with deputies, wives, and mothers of reservists.

Specifically, on VKontakte, Russia’s largest (state-owned) social network, the group "Za zamenu mobilizovannykh" ("For the replacement of those mobilized") has been blocked, and on Zen, a recommendation service made by Yandex, the channel "Semyi mobilizonavnnykh iz Rossii" ("Families of those mobilized from Russia") has been included in Roskomnadzor’s restricted content list. After the flash mob, more messages appeared in comments under Putin’s appearances in communities of wives and mothers of the mobilized, urging them not to comment on live broadcasts by officials.

Previously, Vazhnye Istorii journalists had observed that VKontakte started blocking user posts with hashtags like #vernyomrebyat ("#bringbacktheguys") and #mobilizovannymporadomoy (#"themobilized should go back home"), based on the Prosecutor General’s Office’s concerns regarding “unreliable” information about the war in Ukraine.

As the consequences of these actions unfold, women connected to the mobilized Russian armed forces are raising concerns in group chats, attempting to draw attention to the issues arising from the indefinite deployment of reservists at the front through personal and public appeals to officials.

Mobilization was announced on September 21, 2022. According to Russian authorities, 300,000 people were mobilized at that time. Many have already lost their lives. A recent study indicates that, on average, Russian conscripts perished in Ukraine after just four and a half months of service, and every fifth conscript did not survive for more than two months. Those who have endured are compelled to continue their service.

According to Andrey Kartapolov, chairman of the State Duma Committee on Defense, there are no provisions for the rotation of mobilized conscripts, and they are expected to return home only after the conclusion of the war.

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