In Russia, some women demand return of their men from Ukraine front | World News


Maria Andreeva, whose husband has been fighting in Ukraine for more than a year, is also waging a battle in Moscow: to get him home.

Russia-Ukraine War: Damaged radar, a vehicle and equipment are seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol.(AP)
Russia-Ukraine War: Damaged radar, a vehicle and equipment are seen at a Ukrainian military facility outside Mariupol.(AP)

She is not alone.

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A growing movement of Russian women is demanding the return from the front of their husbands, sons and brothers who were mobilised after a decree by President Vladimir Putin in September last year.

Initially, the movement pledged loyalty to what the Kremlin calls its “special military operation” (SVO) but what they regard as the perfunctory response they have received is hardening some of their opinions.

Since Andreeva’s husband was mobilised last year and headed to Ukraine, he has been back only for two short breaks to see his wife and young daughter. His wife says this is insufficient for a soldier fighting in a conflict.

“We want our men to be demobilised so that they can return home because we think that for over a year they have done everything they could have – or even more,” Andreeva, 34, told Reuters in an interview in Moscow.

“For me, it is not only a struggle to ensure that my daughter has a father, but it is also a struggle for my marriage.”

Tackling the movement is a delicate matter for the Kremlin.

Moscow, which sent tens of thousands of troops to Ukraine in February 2022, has in previous wars tolerated higher death tolls than would be politically palatable in Western countries.

But the growing movement of Russian women underscores the complexity and innate inequality of keeping so many men at war for so long while many more of fighting age remain at home.

Groups of Russian soldiers’ mothers campaigned for better conditions for their sons serving in the armed forces as the Soviet Union crumbled, and later for their return from wars in Russia’s Chechnya region.

It is too soon to assess the size or impact of the movement of Russian women in a society which the authorities say is united behind the war effort. Women in Ukraine have also demanded their men be allowed back from the front.

Asked about the dangers of speaking out in war-time Russia, Andreeva said: “I want you to understand: it is no longer scary because it is just not possible to put up with all this any longer. It is just too much.”

Reuters did not seek or receive any military or other potentially sensitive information from Andreeva. She asked for her husband not to be identified.


When Putin ordered a partial mobilisation of 300,000 reservists in September 2022, hundreds of thousands of young men rushed to leave Russia. Millions did not leave, and some of them were called up to fight.

Since then, Russia has recruited hundreds of thousands of contract soldiers in the provinces with the lure of high wages. Russia has so far recruited 452,000 contract soldiers this year, underscoring the numerical advantage Russia has over Ukraine, according to Dmitry Medvedev, the former president who is now deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council.

Petitions to bring their men back produced almost no response, and Russia’s defence ministry has barely engaged with the women, Andreeva said.

The ministry did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The lack of a response has persuaded some of the women to stop behaving like “good girls” over their demands and changed their perceptions of the conflict, Andreeva said.

“Our position at the start was: Yes we understand why it is needed, we support it, we occupied a rather loyal position,” she said. “But now the position – including mine – is changing because we see how we are being treated, and how our husbands are being treated.”

Protests planned by the women did not secure the authorities’ approval to go ahead. The women have been accused of being backed by Western-based dissidents and opposition parties – slurs without foundations, Andreeva said.

Their “Way Home” Telegram channel has 23,000 members.


Two women peppered lawmaker Vitaly Milonov last month with blunt questions about the return of their men, piercing his attempts to brush aside their questions with phrases about his own patriotism.

“We are all Russian here,” one interrupted in a video clip posted online. “When will the mobilised be changed over?”

“Of course there will be (a changeover). We will be victorious and all…” Milonov said.

“Oh, we have heard all that before,” the woman interjected.

For Andreeva, and other wives, mothers and sisters, the inequality of the burden of war is an important complaint. While opulent restaurants in Moscow will be serving fine wine and truffles over the New Year festive period, some men are freezing in trenches at the front.

“We have 1 percent of the population who are taking on the whole burden of the SVO at the front while the other 99% are preparing for New Year and having some fun,” Andreeva said.

“Having fun is not what is in stall for our boys or our families.”

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