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Putin meets the mothers of soldiers fighting in Ukraine and says he feels their pain

Vladimir Putin met with the mothers of soldiers who fought in Ukraine, telling them that he and the entire Russian leadership share their suffering.

According to the United States, the war in Ukraine killed or injured tens of thousands of troops on both sides, and the Russian invasion sparked the biggest confrontation between Moscow and the West since the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

Hundreds of thousands of Russian troops have been sent to fight in Ukraine – including some of the more than 300,000 reservists called up as part of the mobilization announced by Putin in September.

Sitting with a group of mothers around a table with tea, cakes and bowls of fresh berries, Putin said Moscow shares the pain of those who have lost their sons.

“I would like you to know that I personally and the entire leadership of the country share your pain,” Putin said.

“We understand that nothing can replace the loss of a son – especially a mother,” Putin said, breathing heavily and clearing his throat frequently. “We share this pain.”

The mothers listened to Putin’s remarks, but their own remarks to the president were not immediately shown in the recorded TV clip.

Putin said he has no regrets about launching what he calls Russia’s “special military operation” against Ukraine, and regards the war as a watershed moment when Russia finally stood up to the arrogant Western hegemony after decades of humiliation in the years since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Russia last publicly revealed its losses on September 21, when Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed. But that number is much lower than most international estimates.

The top general of the United States estimated on November 9 that both Russia and Ukraine saw more than 100,000 soldiers killed or wounded.

Mother’s Day is celebrated in Russia on Sunday.

Ukraine and the West argue that Putin has no excuse for what they call an imperial-style war of occupation. Ukraine says it will fight until the last Russian soldier is expelled from its territory.

Putin’s meeting came as NATO reaffirmed its support for Ukraine, which has seen significant gains around Kherson, a regional economic hub, in recent weeks.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said the military alliance would “not back down” from its efforts to deliver non-lethal aid to Ukraine.

“NATO will continue to support Ukraine as long as necessary,” he said.

Russian President Vladimir Putin

(AP)

“We will not budge,” he told reporters in Brussels on Friday ahead of the alliance’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Bucharest next week.

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