December 6, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 11001

Wives Of Russian Soldiers Protest Extended Mobilization: 'We Are Being Betrayed And Exterminated By Our Own'

December 6, 2023
Russia | Special Dispatch No. 11001

Amid the ongoing hostilities and losses in Ukraine, the Russian authorities are automatically extending the contracts of those already on the frontline and trying to recruit soldiers to avoid another partial or general mobilization ahead of the upcoming presidential elections. These measures have prompted the rise of a powerful women's protest movement.[1]

"Manifesto Of The Wives Of The Mobilized"

On November 27, the "Put domoi [The Way Home]" Telegram channel posted an "Appeal To The Russian People."[2] The document, which calls for the return of Russians mobilized for the war in Ukraine, was latter dubbed the "Manifesto Of The Wives Of The Mobilized." The text reads: "What is going on right now is so absurd. The president has declared 2024 to be the year of the family. This is ironic, considering that wives are suffering without their husbands, children are growing up without their fathers, and many are already orphans." Along with the manifesto, the channel published a corresponding petition "For the return of mobilized and introduction of a service-term limit" posted on the CryptPad platform.[3] The authors quote the Russian Constitution, which says that "Man, his rights and freedoms shall be the supreme value" and demand that those mobilized for war be returned home and that tours of duty are limited to one year.

In conclusion, the text stresses: "We do not impose a political choice regarding the authorities, or an attitude toward the armed conflict in Ukraine. Everyone has the right to make up their own mind. However, we will support the one who will return our men to us. SERVICEMEN AND THEIR FAMILIES – UNITE AND FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHTS!"[4]

The petition of the wives of Russian soldiers fighting in Ukraine.

Russian Women Protest Mobilization

The mobilization was carried out by decree of Russian President Vladimir Putin.[5] Among other things, the decree automatically prolongs military service contracts until the end of mobilization. Despite the claims by Russian officials, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu,[6] about the mobilization having ended as of October 28, 2022, the decree remains in effect. This stance was supported by the Russian Supreme Court.[7] Thus, the majority of short-term military contracts, of terms of six to 12 months, remain in force.[8]

The appearance of these documents was preceded by protests of the "wives of mobilized." Members of the "Council of Wives and Mothers" held on November 14, 2022, a rally in front of the headquarters of the Western Military District (ZVO) in St. Petersburg to voice their demands. The "Council of Wives and Mothers" created in 2022 by the female activists of the Volya Party and headed by Samara resident Olga Tsukanova, whose son was reportedly forced to sign a military contact.[9] The Council is not the only organization that protested; the youth democratic movement "Viasna" also protested the mobilization. Tsukanova and several activists were detained by the police, while the former was recognized as a "foreign agent by the authorities." This did not curb the protests. It seems, according to Verstka media, that protests in 2022 were mostly in the Kursk and Voronezh oblasts (i.e., the regions bordering Ukraine), as well as in the Caucasus republics,[10] and continued into 2023. The relatives of the mobilized are protesting and appealing to the authorities and to Putin. 

One Maria Andreeva, who participated in a protest in Moscow by the wives of mobilized soldiers, holds a poster that reads: "Justice is the de-mobilization of the mobilized."
[11] The image to the right shows a standard reply from the government, similar to those that protesters received, saying that demobilization is impossible as service contracts have been prolonged. In an interview to "Mozhem Ob'yasnit" on Telegram, Andreeva said: "Money cannot replace husbands. They can shove their benefits in the known place!"[12]

Government Response To Protests

The Kremlin has tried to curb protests through dispersals and administrative pressure, but it must use such tactics carefully to avoid a backlash. Thus, the authorities also try to silence the issue by blocking social media accounts engaged in protests,[13] to obstruct protests, and to run a defamation campaign. The authorities of the Russian city of Novosibirsk permitted a rally of "wives of the mobilized," inside local community center ("Dom Kulturi") allowing only 30 participants without banners and any printed materials and prohibiting media from attending.[14] Many local governments have not authorized public actions, including those of Krasnoyarsk,[15] Chelyabinsk,[16] St. Petersburg,[17] and even Moscow.[18] Curiously, the Moscow and St. Petersburg governments gave COVID-19 restrictions as the reason for not authorizing the protests. The St. Petersburg government had recently permitted many pro-state events including celebrations of National Unity Day, during which, among other things, the accession of Ukraine's territories was celebrated.[19]

It appears that the government is taking the issue seriously. On November 25, Putin held a meeting with the mothers of the mobilized to which neither the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers nor the Council of Mothers and Wives of Mobilized were invited. Among the attendees of the meeting, journalists identified state officials and members of the United Russia Party.[20]

A May 12 post by the "Mozhem Ob'yasnit [We Can Explain]" Telegram channel
[21] urges readers to ask Putin a question about the de-mobilization during the "Direct Line with Vladimir Putin" annual event, which is a televised event during which the Russian president answers citizens' questions. The image depicts a woman with her mouth covered by a sheet that reads "Do not be silent." The post also gave instructions on how to reach the "Direct Line."

The authorities even take over and shut down media platforms used by protesters. Valentina Vorontsova, an assistant to Elena Penzina, deputy of Krasnoyarsk parliament, took over administration of the chatroom of the "wives of the mobilized" from Krasnoyarsk. Vorontsova, after posting several messages about the detrimental effect of public actions and protests deleted the chatroom.[22] In turn, in her own pro-war Telegram channel "PenZina," the offcial stated that protests are incited by the opposition and posted an appeal on the part of a "man with historical education," one Oleg Lut'ikh.[23] The latter denigrated female activists, arguing foreign subversive influence, and advising activists to "keep their beautiful mouths shut." The speaker threatened the women, as well as the "fifth column" with persecution and indiscriminate killings.  

As the hostilities continue, the authorities will face a difficult decision: whether to conduct another mobilization and organize a troop rotation, or to try to curb the growing protest movement, risking radicalization and discontent at the front.



[2] Ibid.


[4] Ibid.




[8] There are several ways to end military contract: injury, recognized by doctors' and military commission that prevents participation in hostilities; reaching 70 years of age; court's decision nullifying the contract; end of mobilization decree; or death.

[9] See further: the first appeal of Olga Tsukanova posted 11/23/2022 at "Council of Wives and Mothers" VK group (



[12] Ibid.







[19] For instance, exhibition "Russia" held in Moscow in November of 2023 (roughly the same time the appeals for rallies in Moscow and St. Petersburg were send to the authorities) was visited by 2.000.000 people.





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