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ISW analyses how Kremlin selected families of deceased Russian soldiers for Christmas meeting with Putin

Monday, 8 January 2024, 03:42
ISW analyses how Kremlin selected families of deceased Russian soldiers for Christmas meeting with Putin
Putin's meeting with the families of deceased Russian soldiers. Photo: Kremlin

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has analysed the selection of families of deceased Russian soldiers present at the Christmas meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, noting that such selections are a regular practice of the Kremlin.

Source: ISW

Details: Russian President Putin continued to "court" Russian servicemen and their families ahead of the March 2024 presidential election during a meeting with the families of deceased Russian servicemen on 6 January.


Putin met with families of Russian servicemen killed in Ukraine at his residence in Novo-Ogaryovo near Moscow to celebrate Orthodox Christmas.

He emphasised "the heroism of the deceased Russian servicemen" who "defend[ed] the interests of [Russia]".

The ISW noted that the Russian President has repeatedly reaffirmed the support of the Russian government for the Russian servicemen's families and delegated responsibility for the continued support of these families to Russian officials at all levels across Russia.

Putin recently attended similar events where he tried to show himself as a "gracious leader" who cares about the welfare of Russian servicemen and demonstrated his ability to accommodate servicemen's requests and solve their problems.

ISW pointed out that Putin is likely to use these periodic, highly publicised meetings as part of his election campaign, as Russian military personnel and their family members make up a large portion of voters. Their public support for Putin is vital to the Kremlin, as it allows him to represent Russian society as one that largely supports the war in Ukraine.

In addition, ISW noted that the Kremlin appears to be carefully selecting the families who attended the meeting with Putin to minimise the risk that they might say or ask uncomfortable things.

ISW also stated that the Kremlin has demonstrated "sensitivity" to recent public complaints from family members of Russian servicemen and continues its efforts to censor these complaints in the public space.

Russian opposition outlet Agentstvo Novosti reported on 7 January that relatives of five killed Russian servicemen were present at the meeting, noting that many of those relatives had ties to the Russian government and military.

Agentstvo Novosti said among those present was a Russian National Guard serviceman’s widow, who is now the head of the Committee of Families of Soldiers of the Fatherland in Balashikha and advisor to the head of Balashikha. A Russian serviceman’s widow, who currently works as the head of the Tambov branch of the Kremlin-created Defenders of the Fatherland Foundation, and family members of the former rector of the church at the headquarters of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces, who previously participated in the conflicts in Chechnya and Syria and was known as the "paratroopers’ priest", were also present.

Agentstvo Novosti stated that all five fallen servicemen whose families were present at the meeting were posthumously awarded the Hero of Russia and Order of Courage and that two children who attended the meeting were also present at an event Putin attended on 4 November in Moscow.

ISW emphasised that the Kremlin's practice of carefully selecting those who attend public events with Putin, and sometimes the same person appearing at several events, seems to be standard.

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 7 January:  

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin continued to court Russian servicemen and their families ahead of the March 2024 presidential election during a meeting with family members of deceased Russian servicemen on 6 January.
  • Head of the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church Patriarch Kirill of Moscow stated that Russia cannot reject Russian citizens who "understand they made a mistake" by fleeing Russia after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine and now want to return home.
  • Two Russian government officials defended migrants’ continued presence in Russia amid ongoing migrant crackdowns, generating heavy military blogger criticism and indicating that the Russian government likely still lacks a unified policy toward migrants in Russia.
  • Russian forces conducted a series of missile and drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of 6 to 7 January.
  • Ukrainian Air Force Spokesperson Colonel Yurii Ihnat refuted media reports that the Danish Ministry of Defence (MoD) is delaying its first delivery of six F-16 fighter jets to Ukraine for up to six months.
  • Russian forces made confirmed advances west and southwest of Donetsk City amid continued positional engagements along the front.
  • Ukrainian military observer Kostiantyn Mashovets stated on 7 January that Russia has pushed back the deadline for the establishment of the new Moscow and Leningrad Military Districts (MMD and LMD) for at least the second time due to weapons and personnel shortages and bureaucratic issues.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on 4 January that will allow Russia to forcibly grant citizenship to deported Ukrainian children.

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