- A Russian mother successfully made Russian authorities return her sons from Ukraine.
- Her two sons were conscripts but never meant to serve in the Ukraine war, the mother told the BBC.
- She won a case with the military prosecutor and said “lied to my face.”
A Russian mother who was initially excited about her two sons’ conscription to the Russian military last year forced Putin’s government to return her sons home after she found out they were wrongfully sent to fight in Ukraine, according to the BBC.
Marina, a pseudonym used by the BBC due to fear of retribution, told the outlet that in 2021, she told her two sons that “it was their duty to the motherland,” and they were conscripted for a year in the country’s military.
But months into 2022, Marina worried for her boys as Russian troops were building at the Ukrainian border. When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a military invasion into the neighboring country on February 24, Marina stopped hearing from her sons.
“Time stopped for me. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep,” she told the BBC. “I exchanged messages with the mothers of other conscripts from the same unit. It turned out that many of them had lost contact with their children, too.”
In early March, after weeks of denying that he had sent young conscripts into war, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov admitted that Russia had sent conscripts to Ukraine — and that they were among the casualties.
Marina told the BBC that after weeks and an attempt to drive into Ukraine herself, she heard from colleagues in her son’s unit who said that her sons had signed military contracts to fight in Ukraine.
“I wrote to the prosecutor-general’s office asking to investigate,” Marina told the BBC. “I told them there was no way my sons could have signed military contracts. I was certain. Other mothers wrote, too. They all knew their children.”
By March 9, the military prosecutor’s office investigated Marina’s claim and returned her sons to Russia shortly after, given they had never signed military contracts to fight in Ukraine.
“The lads that came back from there were so thin, dirty and exhausted,” Marina told the BBC. “Their clothes were torn. My son said: ‘It’s better that you don’t know what happened there.’ But all that mattered to me was that he had come back alive.”
She added that throughout the war, military officers “lied to my face.”
“First, they lied that my sons weren’t in Ukraine. Then they lied that they’d signed military contracts. Officers lied, sergeants lied,” she told the BBC. “Later someone told me that they weren’t allowed to tell me the truth. Incredible. They were allowed to break the law and send my sons [to Ukraine], but they weren’t allowed to tell a mother where her children are.”
She added that other families are still living with the nightmare of not knowing where their children are, and whether they are serving in the war.
“So many sons haven’t come back and never will. So many mothers are still searching for their children,” Marina said. “My children were different people when they came back. You can see it in their eyes. They’re different. They’re disillusioned. I want them to believe again in a bright future, in peace and love. They’ve stopped believing.”