- A Russian mother said she learned her son had died from a message on social media.
- She said Russian authorities had repeatedly contacted her, telling her that her son was fine.
- She said she struggled to get answers as she tried to contact the military.
The mother of a Russian soldier in Ukraine said the Russian army repeatedly told her that here son was alive, but that she found out that he was dead after someone tipped her off on social media.
The mother spoke to the BBC about her son. The BBC identified her by the pseudonym Valya as she was afraid of being punished by Russian authorities for speaking out.
Valya said that the last time she spoke to her son was on February 20 — four days before Russia invaded Ukraine — and he told her at the time that his unit was doing “exercises” near Ukraine’s border.
Throughout March, military officials would contact her and tell her that her son was fine, she said.
But then a man who claimed to be friends with her son messaged her on social media, and said her son was dead, the BBC reported.
“I didn’t know him. He found me on social media. He told me my son’s leg had been blown off and that he was dead. I made lots of calls and tried to meet officials. But no one could tell me anything,” Valya told the BBC.
She said that a Russian sergeant “eventually” told her that her son had not been in contact with the army since February 23.
She said she asked him: “So why have you been calling [to say everything is fine]? Just to calm us down?”
“No-one has given me the basic information: Where, when and how my son disappeared. All I’ve been told is that he was taking part in the ‘special military operation’ and that he is missing.”
She said he replied: “Sorry, I’m only a sergeant.”
Valya said she wrote to different parts of the military, but got little back: “No-one has given me the basic information: Where, when and how my son disappeared. All I’ve been told is that he was taking part in the ‘special military operation’ and that he is missing.”
Valya received official confirmation that her son had died in Ukraine after she spoke to the BBC, the broadcaster reported.
Little information from Russia
Parents of other Russian soldiers have reported being given scant information about their children.
One mother said she saw a photo on social media showing her son had been captured, but that military officials would not give her answers when she tried to speak to them, ITV reported in March.
An organization helping the families of Russian military members told ITV in March that it was getting thousands of calls a day from parents, saying parents were asking things like: “What happened to my child, is he alive? Is he captured? Where is he? Is he in Russia near the border with Ukraine or is he in Ukraine?”
Russia has not updated its death toll in the Ukraine invasion since March.
Ukraine has accused Russia of using mobile crematoriums in Ukraine to burn its dead and hide its true death toll.
Valya told the BBC that a growing number of Russian mothers resent Russian officials for sending their sons to fight in Ukraine.
Early in the invasion, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy appealed directly to Russian mothers, telling them to oppose the invasion that meant their sons were being sent to war. But media is highly controlled in Russia, and it is not clear how many Russians would see his words.
Russia has also banned protests against the Ukraine war and arrested thousands of demonstrators.