Russian Mothers Say Their Sons Sent to Ukraine as 'Cannon Fodder'

The furious mothers of Russian soldiers have accused the Kremlin of deploying their sons as "cannon fodder" in President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, according to footage that purportedly shows a heated confrontation with a regional governor.

Sergey Tsivilev, governor of the Kemerovo region, was filmed on a stage in a gymnasium while women accused the government of "deceiving" their sons.

"We were all deceived, all deceived. They were sent there as cannon fodder. They are young. They were unprepared," one woman said, according to the footage that was shared online as early as March 5, according to analysis by RFE/RL.

Tsivilev repeated the Kremlin's narrative that the invasion launched by Putin on February 24 is a "special military operation" to disarm Ukraine and detain leaders it calls neo-Nazis. Ukraine and the West say the rhetoric is a false pretext to justify an invasion of the country.

"This is a special operation and, at the moment, nobody can give comments about the special operation," the governor said. "These guys were used..."

"Used!" one woman interjected. "So our children were used?"

According to RFE/RL, the exchange took place during a meeting between Tsivilev and residents of the city of Novokuznetsk. The location was the training base of riot police units, whose officers were killed or captured in combat in Ukraine, the news outlet reported.

"No one has lied to anyone," Tsivilev said in response to accusations of deception by the Russian government.

Newsweek has been unable to independently verify the video, or where and when it was filmed.

One woman asked the governor about the whereabouts of his own son.

"My son is studying at a university," Tsivilev answered.

It comes as footage circulates on social media that appear to show Russian soldiers saying that they were deceived by their superiors.

A video of five Russian soldiers captured in Kharkiv by Ukrainian forces, which went viral on social media, showed them saying that they wanted to return home, and that they didn't want to invade Ukraine and were demoralized.

When they were asked why they came to Ukraine, the soldiers suggested they had been lied to and tricked into it.

"[We came here] for training. We were cheated a little, so that's how I am here," one soldier said.

"For training. I was sent here by commanders," another Russian soldier responded.

The third soldier said: "We were told we were being sent for training at first, but we were put on the frontline. People were demoralized and didn't want to go, but they said you will become public enemies. We do not want this war. We just want to go home and we want peace."

Another soldier suggested they had all been "deceived and abandoned."

A friend of a Novokuznetsk OMON officer who went missing in Ukraine told RFE/RL that soldiers were told they were being sent for "a training exercise in Belarus."

"The last time I talked to him was on the eve of the invasion," the friend said on condition of anonymity. "He sent me a video saying they'd forced them to take the plates off their vehicles and turn over their phones. That's the last I heard from him."

Ukraine claimed over the weekend that at least 10,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since Russia launched its invasion on February 24. Russia's defense ministry meanwhile has put out a more modest figure, saying that 498 of its soldiers had been killed in Ukraine as of March 2.

Follow our live blog for updates on the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Ukraine-Russia conflict
A Ukrainian soldier sitting on a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft gun at a frontline, northeast of Kyiv on March 3, 2022. The furious mothers of some Russian soldiers have accused the Kremlin of deploying their sons as “cannon fodder” in President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine. ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images