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Russia paying off soldiers’ wives to avoid protests: Reports

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On Saturday, there was a noticeable decrease in the intensity of Russian military actions against the embattled town of Avdiivka in eastern Ukraine. Concurrently, unverified reports from the region indicated that Russian forces had not succeeded in capturing Maryinka, a heavily damaged town located southwest of Avdiivka.
Since shifting focus to eastern Ukraine after halting their advance towards Kyiv in the early stages of the February 2022 invasion, Russian military efforts have been concentrated on seizing Avdiivka and its significant coking plant since mid-October.Despite Russian claims on Friday of having taken control of Maryinka, which has been a battleground for over a year, recent unofficial Ukrainian updates on Saturday suggest that Ukrainian forces still control parts of the town.
Ukrainian military spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun, speaking on national television, noted that the frequency of Russian attacks on Avdiivka had reduced by half in the last 24 hours, attributing this decline to substantial losses incurred by the Russian forces.
Ukraine has leveled a serious accusation against Russia, alleging the execution of Ukrainian soldiers who had indicated their willingness to surrender, labeling it a war crime.
A brief video shared on Telegram captures a scene where two individuals emerge from a shelter, one raising his hands above his head, and then both lie down in front of a group of soldiers. The footage then seemingly shows gunfire and smoke before ending abruptly.
These images, which are undated and were circulated on social networks, are claimed to have been recorded near Avdiivka, an eastern Ukrainian town currently experiencing intense combat. However, their exact location and authenticity have not been verified by AFP.
Meanwhile, according to British defense officials, the Kremlin is actively attempting to suppress discontent among the wives of Russian troops deployed in Ukraine, the Newsweek reported. Since the onset of the war initiated by Vladimir Putin in February 2022, there have been numerous instances of low morale among Russian soldiers, who have voiced concerns over inadequate equipment and training. Additionally, there has been a rising number of pleas from family members for the rotation and return of Russian troops.
The Council of Mothers and Wives, an organization representing the relatives of mobilized Russians, has been vocal in its condemnation of the war. In November 2022, the wives of Russian soldiers traveled to the Ukrainian border near Kharkiv, demanding the return of their husbands who had been wounded on the frontline, as reported by the independent Russian news outlet The Insider.
In a notable incident last month, spouses and relatives of Russian soldiers staged a protest in Moscow, calling for the return of their loved ones. This demonstration was quickly dispersed by law enforcement. An appeal published on the Telegram channel The Way Home on November 27 expressed the sentiment that the Russian public “got screwed.”
Putin’s announcement in September 2022 of a partial mobilization, which aimed to bolster troop numbers using 300,000 reservists and ex-military personnel, has been met with criticism. The RAND Corporation think tank noted in June that Russian troops have not been permitted to leave the military since Putin’s decree. The Way Home’s post criticized the mobilization, stating that “our loved ones were taken to Ukraine,” despite promises that reservists would not be called up, and lamented that “many will never return.”
In response to the growing criticism, the British Ministry of Defense reported that the Kremlin is trying to quell public dissent. The MOD’s daily update on Saturday indicated that the Council of Mothers and Wives was targeted with a fake warning label, “likely at the instigation of pro-Kremlin actors.” This is part of a strategy by Russian authorities to silence the angry wives by offering them increased cash payments to refrain from protesting and discrediting them online.
(With inputs from agencies)

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