Soldiers' widows group calls on Putin to order major mobilisation for Ukraine war

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  • This content was produced in Russia, where the law restricts coverage of Russian military operations in Ukraine

MOSCOW, Jan 3 (Reuters) - A little known patriotic group which supports the widows of Russian soldiers has called on President Vladimir Putin to order a large-scale mobilisation of millions of men and to close the borders to ensure victory in Ukraine.

Putin, Russia's 70-year-old paramount leader, is under intense pressure to deliver victory in Ukraine more than 10 months since he sent troops as part of an operation he says was intended to defend Russians in eastern Ukraine.

"We ask our President, Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, to allow the Russian Army to carry out a large-scale mobilisation," the Soldiers' Widows of Russia group said in a post on Telegram.

"We ask our President, our Supreme Commander-in-Chief, to prohibit the departure of men of military age from Russia. And we have a full moral right to do this: our husbands died protecting these men, but who will protect us if they run away?"

After ordering what he cast as a "partial mobilisation" on Sept. 21, Russia's first since World War Two, around 300,000 additional men were drafted, though several hundred thousand more Russian men fled abroad to avoid being called up.

The Kremlin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the appeal from the widows' group. Putin said last month that there was no need for an additional mobilisation.

A representative of the widows' group told Reuters that all fit Russian men should be mobilised to defend the Motherland.

"The coming war will require completely different resources: human, psychological, economic," she told Reuters. "Protecting the Motherland is a duty."

GEOPOLITICAL SHOWDOWN

Putin has for months been casting the war as part of a much wider historical struggle between Russia and the West which the Kremlin chief says wants to carve up and destroy Russia.

Western powers deny they aim to destroy Russia.

In a grim New Year's Eve message, Putin said that defending the Motherland was the sacred duty of all Russians and promised victory in Ukraine.

Ukraine and the West say Putin has no justification for what they cast as an imperial-style war of occupation.

The widows group began work about two months ago to assist the wives of soldiers killed in Ukraine and has contacts with the Kremlin administration, its representative said.

"We are in constant contact with the presidential administration, and if necessary, we transmit requests to it in order to receive this or that support," the representative said.

Invoking Soviet leader Josef Stalin, the group said that now was the time for tough measures to defend against the evil forces coalescing around Russia's borders.

"Today, all the world's evil has united against Russia - the entire Western world has turned against us," the group said. "It's either us or them, there is no other choice."

Stalin in 1942 issued Order No. 227 which became known as the "Not a step back" order. It was an attempt to establish discipline within the Red Army though thousands of Soviet troops were shot by their own side for alleged cowardice.

Stalin "did not think about ratings or dissatisfaction among dissidents: he thought only of victory," the group said. "Now is not the time to be cowardly."

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne

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