Wives of Russians mobilised to fight in Ukraine symbolically laid flowers Saturday at the flame of the unknown soldier right beneath the walls of the Kremlin and demanded the return of their husbands from the front.

Anger has been growing for months among relatives of reservists who President Vladimir Putin mobilised in September 2022, seven months after the initial invasion of Ukraine.

The mobilisation is a sensitive subject for authorities, who have so far refrained from repressing what has become a nascent movement of revolt.

Saturday saw some 15 women brave the winter cold to place red flowers at the site in the heart of the capital.

“We want to draw the authorities’ attention and that of the public to our appeal. We have tried several means. We made a written appeal to lawmakers, officials, administrations -- but we were not heard,” Maria, a 47-year-old sales manager, whose husband was mobilised in November 2022, told AFP.

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“It’s not fair. They are civilians, they are not soldiers. Our husbands can’t stay there,” she added.

Maria Semyonova, a legal assistant, urged authorities to “negotiate peace” in Ukraine at a protest where police did not intervene.

Usually, protests against the conflict are swiftly and resolutely nipped in the bud with the subject a delicate issue for the Kremlin.

Paulina, the mother of a one-year-old child, said the protest is “the only peaceful action that has not yet been banned by law.

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“I feel like we’re annoying them. But no one will remain silent. We shall carry on every day, every Saturday. We’ll lay flowers” to draw attention to the situation, she said.

“At some point, it will be impossible to ignore us,” added Paulina, saying she was determined to get back her husband.

Russian state media have to date largely ignored the women’s protest, with the Kremlin keen to project an image of national unity ahead of presidential elections later this year where Putin expects to secure another term.

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According to Putin, 244,000 Russians have been mobilised to fight in Ukraine in a total force 617,000 strong.

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