UPDATE 2-Putin tells mothers of soldiers killed in Ukraine: ‘We share your pain’

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Putin meets mothers of soldiers, some grieving

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Putin: “I personally, and the entire leadership, share your pain”

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Russia has not fully listed its battlefield losses.

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Some mothers say the Kremlin ignores the most critical family groups

(recasts)

By Guy Faulconbridge

LONDON, Nov 25 (Reuters) – President Vladimir Putin met more than a dozen mothers of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine on Friday and told those who had lost children that he and the entire leadership shared their suffering.

The war in Ukraine has killed or injured tens of thousands of soldiers on both sides, according to the United States, and the Russian invasion has sparked the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

Hundreds of thousands of Russians have been sent to fight in Ukraine, including some of the more than 300,000 who were called up as part of a mobilization announced by Putin in September.

Gathering with 17 women at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence on the outskirts of Moscow to mark Russian Mother’s Day on Sunday, Putin was shown in a short pre-recorded clip sitting with them around a table laden with tea, cakes and mugs. of fresh berries. Many smiled when Putin entered.

Putin said he understood the anxiety and concern of the soldiers’ mothers, and the pain of those who had lost their children in Ukraine.

“I would like you to know that I personally and the entire leadership of the country share your pain,” Putin said.

“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a child, especially for a mother,” she added, breathing heavily and clearing her throat frequently. “We share this pain.”

The mothers heard what appeared to be Putin’s introductory remarks, but his comments were not immediately displayed.

Putin has said he has no regrets launching what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine and presents the war as a turning point when Russia finally faced an arrogant Western hegemony after decades of humiliation in the years since the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they present as an imperial-style war of conquest. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is banished.

‘FAKES, DECEPTION, LIES’

In what appeared to be an attempt to counter online reports of Russian forces’ problems at war, Putin urged mothers to be wary of the Internet.

“Nothing can be trusted there at all, there are all kinds of fakes, deceptions, lies,” Putin said.

He praised his sons for standing up for what he called Novorossiya, literally “new Russia,” a loaded term of tsarist empire that modern Russian nationalists use to describe a swath of southern and eastern Ukraine that Russia now claims.

Putin said that he sometimes called Russian soldiers to the front lines and that his words had made them heroes in his eyes.

But some relatives of soldiers killed in the war said the Kremlin had ignored their pleas for a meeting.

“Mothers will ask the ‘right’ questions that have been agreed in advance,” Olga Tsukanova, head of the Council of Wives and Mothers, said in a Telegram message ahead of the meeting.

“Vladimir Vladimirovich – are you a man or who are you? Do you have the courage to meet face to face, openly, not with pre-agreed women and mothers who are in your pocket, but with real women who have traveled from different cities here to meet with you? We look forward to your response,” Tsukanova said.

Russia last publicly disclosed its war losses on September 21, when Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed. That number is well below most international estimates.

The US top general estimated on November 9 that Russia and Ukraine had each seen more than 100,000 of their soldiers killed or wounded. Ukraine does not disclose its losses.

(Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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