Vladimir Putin held a meeting with soldiers’ mothers at the end of November. According to reports, however, only 3 of the 16 mothers actually have sons mobilized by the army – a clever Kremlin strategy.

After the large-scale partial Russian mobilization at the end of September, Kremlin boss Vladimir Putin met the mothers of conscripted soldiers in a public campaign at the end of November. The meeting at the President’s personal residence was ostensibly to discuss their opinions and proposals on the war and mobilization.

The Russian online medium Meduza has now revealed that only 3 of the 16 participating mothers actually have mobilized sons. The remaining participants are mothers of professional soldiers or volunteer soldiers. But that’s not all: there is a sophisticated strategy behind the meeting.

Julia Belechova, Elena Alekseeva and Marina Bakhlina are said mothers, Meduza reports. Belekhova is no stranger: she is the head of the Moscow regional branch of the pro-Putin political coalition All-Russia Popular Front. Alekseeva, a housewife from Stary Oskol in the Belgorod region, and Bakhlina, a cook from Yakutsk, also have sons who have been mobilized.

According to Meduza information, the others are mothers of volunteers or professional soldiers. But how were the women selected by the Kremlin?

It quickly becomes clear that the 16 women were not selected at random: 11 of them work either for state-funded organizations or for social movements close to the Kremlin, reports Meduza. One is called Olga Beltseva. She is a deputy of the Moscow City Administration of the party “United Russia”. Maria Kosytuk and Irina Tasool also both work in government posts.

On the other hand, representatives of independent organizations such as the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers were not invited. The meeting was meant to be the answer to the numerous complaints from conscripts and their families about the mobilization process, two sources close to the presidential administration told Meduza.

The two sources report: “The mobilization has affected many and many still fear it. It was important to show that the president had the problems under control and hadn’t forgotten the people.” The Kremlin wanted to consciously counteract the criticism of the Russian population.

But selecting the required number of mothers was not easy for the Kremlin – after all, the mothers should be pro-Kremlin: “You can’t just take people off the street to a meeting with the President. You could ask anything – it could lead to awkward incidents,” a source said.

That is why employees of the presidential administration found some of the mothers themselves, such as Julia Belechow or the filmmaker Olesya Shigina. And both are said to have only spoken about government-related projects at the meeting: Belechova reported to Putin about the Kremlin-backed project “We are together”. And according to Meduza, Schigina only spoke about other structures connected to the authorities.

The administration was also looking for “suitable women” outside of Moscow, reports Meduza. Accordingly, several regional administrations are said to have been instructed to send candidates. In particular, long-serving state officials, members of United Russia and the All-Russian United Front should be asked, said Meduza.

In addition, the participants “needed to know when to speak and what to say,” reports Meduza. However, the women were not promised any material benefits – they were said to have been motivated to meet the head of state in person.