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Putin fears the wrath of soldiers' wives as the Kremlin tries to 'pay off' potential protesters, report says

Putin fears the wrath of soldiers' wives as the Kremlin tries to 'pay off' potential protesters, report says
Russian soldiers march in unison, overseen by a senior military official.
Russian service members take part in a military parade on Victory Day, which marks the 78th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War II, in Red Square in central Moscow, Russia May 9, 2023.Reuters
  • Russian soldiers and their wives are becoming increasingly unhappy with long deployments.

  • The Kremlin is trying to prevent military wives from protesting by speeding up salary payments.

  • Wives and mothers of mobilized soldiers have influenced public opinion in past conflicts.

The Kremlin is concerned that the disgruntled wives and relatives of conscripted soldiers unhappy with long deployments could become a significant political headache, reports say.

On Saturday, a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) intelligence update on X, said, "The Russian authorities are likely attempting to quash public dissent by wives of deployed Russian soldiers, including by attempting to pay them off and discrediting them online."

Two sources in federal and regional authorities told the Russian opposition outlet Verstka that to prevent the women's discontent from bubbling over, and regional officials were instructed to give soldiers' salary payments to their wives as quickly as possible.

The outlet reported that the Kremlin believes most wives are more concerned about the paycheck than their husbands returning from war.

The report comes after the wives of deployed soldiers held a rare public protest in Moscow on November 7.

Earlier, the UK MoD said the women gathered in the city's Teatralnaya Square with banners demanding their husbands be rotated away from the front line, but police broke it up "within minutes."

"The apparently indefinitely extended combat deployments of personnel without rotation is increasingly seen as unsustainable by both the troops themselves and by their relatives," the MoD said.

In its latest briefing note, the MoD cited that On 27 November 2023, a prominent online group for soldiers' wives published a manifesto against "indefinite mobilization." Days later, the group was pinned with a "fake" warning label – likely at the instigation of pro-Kremlin actors, it said.

"The authorities are likely particularly sensitive to any protests related to those citizens mobilized in September 2022, who have now been at the front line for over a year," the MoD said.

Officials were also instructed to prevent protests from spreading at a three-day conference near Moscow, the Times of London reported, citing reporting by the Russian outlet The Insider.

They were told: "Persuade, promise, pay. Anything, as long as it doesn't go out onto the street, in any quantity, even 50 people."

Recent requests by soldiers' wives to hold protests in Moscow and St. Petersburg have been denied.

The Kremlin appears to be increasingly concerned with public discontent, especially with Russian presidential elections taking place in March 2024.

They are "inexplicably concerned," the think tank The Institute for the Study of War said in a recent update, considering "apparent widespread Russian approval" of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Levada Center, an independent Russian polling organization, said that 82% of surveyed Russians approve of Putin as of October 2023.

Some analysts have said the accuracy of these polls is unclear because many may fear expressing opposition to Putin.

But Putin faces no serious threats at the ballot box because of long-term crackdowns on the opposition and the prevalence of state-controlled media.

But in previous Russian conflicts in Afghanistan and Chechnya, wives and mothers of mobilized soldiers have proved influential in shaping public opinion, and analysts believe Putin fears they could become the kernel of an anti-war movement.

"In a country without an independent media or other effective systems of government oversight, and that has repressive state policies toward all kinds of civil society activism, mothers and wives are really the only legitimate critics of the military," openDemocracy, an independent international-media platform, wrote.

The war in Ukraine has put Putin under pressure, with international sanctions hitting the economy and the partial mobilization of more than 300,000 reservists sparking protests in September 2022.

The chair of Russia's Central Election Commission, Ella Pamfilova, made claims this week about Russians who have left the country trying to discredit the upcoming elections.

The Institute for the Study of War said Pamfilova's statements suggest "the Russian government will continue to intensify censorship efforts under the guise of fighting attempted internal election meddling ahead of the presidential elections."

Read the original article on Business Insider