Russian President Vladimir Putin tells mothers of soldiers he “feels their pain” at a staged meeting in Moscow.

Vladimir Putin told the mothers of men sent to fight in Ukraine that he “feels their pain” during a choreographed session in which he sometimes appeared emotional.

The Kremlin yesterday released footage of the Russian President’s meeting with 17 women carefully selected for their pro-war and pro-Kremlin views.

“Personally, I and the entire leadership of the country share your pain,” Putin told the assembled group.

His voice seemed to catch with emotion at one point during the discussion. Russian wives and mothers of men fighting in Ukraine have been increasingly critical of Putin’s mobilization order in recent months.

“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son, especially for a mother,” Putin said several times during yesterday’s meeting.

This mobilization drew 320,000 men into the army and exposed the reality of the war to the Russian public.

Hundreds of mobilized men have been killed since late September, and others have complained that they were deployed without proper training or equipment and then abandoned by their officers.

The meeting took place at a formal boardroom table in one of Putin’s residences on the outskirts of Moscow.

Each of the women present was seated in front of a microphone, a cup of tea, a bowl of berries and a small plate of pastries.

Last month, Putin visited a training camp for mobilized men for the first time. After firing a sniper rifle, Putin deviated from script and hugged a mobilized man before squeezing his shoulder and wishing him luck.

But always defensive about the need for war, Putin described criticism of the war as “falsifications and lies” at the meeting with the women. He also described their sons as “heroes” who fought a war to defend the motherland. None of the women in the video criticized the invasion, which angered opposition groups.

“The woman will only ask the ‘right’ questions,” said Olga Tsukanova, head of the Independent Council of Mothers and Wives.

“Do you have the courage to meet us face to face, openly, not with pre-arranged women and mothers who are in your pocket, but with real women?”

British military intelligence released yesterday revealed that Russian reservists are suffering heavy casualties as they are forced to dig trenches while under artillery fire and are sent to attack Ukrainian fortified positions.

“Mobilized reservists most likely suffered particularly heavy casualties after being committed to digging ambitious trench systems while under artillery fire around the town of Svatove in Luhansk Oblast,” the Defense Ministry said in its daily news report.

It is “very likely…many will be forced to serve with serious, chronic health conditions,” while others “were killed in large numbers in frontal attacks on well-established Ukrainian defense zones around the town of Bakhmut.”

Svatove is an important junction of a supply line for Russian forces in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Ukrainian forces have been advancing on it since driving the Russians out of the neighboring Kharkiv region in September.

There was a surge in fighting to the east and heavy Russian shelling of Kherson, the southern city it left earlier this month.

Ten people were killed and 54 injured in overnight barrages aimed at residential areas of the city yesterday, local authorities said.

The victims included a 62-year-old woman who was killed by a head wound and her husband later died in hospital from internal bleeding.

James Cleverly, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, who arrived in Kyiv unannounced yesterday, said a promised £50m air defense package would help Ukraine defend itself against Russian bombing.

“Words are not enough. Words will not keep the lights on this winter. Words will not defend against Russian missiles,” Cleverly said in a tweet about the military aid.

The package includes radar and technology to counter the Iran-supplied exploding drones that Russia has used against Ukrainian targets.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022] Russian President Vladimir Putin tells mothers of soldiers he “feels their pain” at a staged meeting in Moscow.

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