Pro-government Russians took to the streets of cities in the Samara region on Tuesday to mourn local soldiers killed in the Ukrainian city of Makiivka in a missile attack on New Year’s Eve.
Hundreds of pro-war Russians attended meetings in the Volga river cities of Samara and Tolyatti, according to local media. reports.
“I haven’t slept for 3 days, and Samara hasn’t slept… this is very difficult and scary, but they can’t break us,” activist Yekaterina Kolotovkina said in a speech to those gathered in Samara, according to video posted online.
The Russian Defense Ministry said On Monday, 63 soldiers were killed in a Ukrainian attack on a vocational school being used as a temporary headquarters in Makiivka, making the attack one of the deadliest incidents of the war so far.
Demonstrations in Samara, Tolyatti and other cities in the region were a rare public display of Russia’s grief and anger at the human cost of the invasion of Ukraine.
However, the attendees appeared to come from pro-government groups, with many flags of pro-Kremlin groups visible in the photos, including those of the ruling United Russia party.
about 200 people established roses and crowns in a central square in the city of Samara, where some of the soldiers came from, while an Orthodox priest recited a prayer.
The soldiers also fired a gun salute at the commemoration.
Russia has not officially released any details about those killed in Makiivka, but they are believed to be men recruited as part of the country’s “partial” mobilization campaign.
The governor of Russia’s Samara region said Monday that soldiers mobilized from Samara were among the dead.
“Grief unites us,” Kolotovkina, who is the wife of a Russian general, told the assembled men and women.
“Together, we will destroy the enemy. They have given us no choice. Neither we nor our husbands wanted war. But the West closed ranks against us, ”he told the RBC outlet. reported.
The death of Russian servicemen in Makiivka has sparked strong online criticism of the army’s high command in Russia, including from nationalist and pro-war commentators.
There have been reports that the soldiers were housed next to an ammunition depot that exploded in the attack and that some had been able to use their Russian mobile phones, giving away their location to Ukrainian forces.
“What conclusions will be drawn? Who will be punished?” Mikhail Matveyev, member of the Russian parliament representing Samara, wrote on social networks
The Russian Defense Ministry said the attack was carried out by Himars rocket systems supplied to Ukraine by the United States.
Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday that, in a separate incident over the New Year, more than 500 Russian soldiers were killed and wounded in the occupied Kherson region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has yet to react to the Makiivka attack or the reports of deaths in the Kherson region, which come during a holiday season before Orthodox Christmas that many Russians spend with their families.
Report provided by AFP