As of February 24 last year, when Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, “all existing military leaders no longer have full authority,” Melnikova told Lusa.
“In the conditions of military operations in Ukraine, there are no military units, no personnel, no communication centers… We have reached this point where we cannot draw on the great experience we had in the past,” says Melnikova at the UCMSR.
Currently, the organization he heads is “hands tied”, “a country very different from 2012”, when the pressure of the UCMSR on the authorities allowed many achievements in the situation of the militants.
Melnikova said the value of the collective work to which veterans’ mothers dedicated themselves resulted in the formal creation of the UCMSR in 1989 and made the state “recognize the human value of veterans.” through a defense.
Mothers’ pressure on the authorities led to investigations into suspicious deaths and “the public prosecutor’s office embraced hundreds of cases in which it was deeply told, the truth must be told,” reports Melnikova.
In 1991, former UCMSR President Mikhail Gorbachev signed a decree granting amnesty to soldiers who abandoned military service: in the absence of crimes, the desertion was forgiven, unprecedented in the country’s history.
“Related achievements like this raised the influence and reputation of our company and facilitated our work in food, health and other sectors. After 33 years, we are proud to have fought and won,” says Melnikova.
“In 2012, we realized that the Army has changed, and a lot for the better. We can say that there was a major Army reform in human relations, medical care and the behavior of officers, which stopped subjecting soldiers to degrading practices,” he rejoices.
If the deployment of Russian troops to Afghanistan throughout the 1980s was a “big shock” to Russian mothers, the crisis in Chechnya in the next decade and even the military intervention in Ukraine, already in the last decade, “already did not. It surprises us a lot,” says Melnikova.
In 2012, he says, there were practically no reports of serious incidents in the army, only the mobilization of young men with minor health problems, but the situation began to change with the return of Vladimir Putin to the presidency. He moved from the Ministry of Emergency Situations, which included the military forces, after he was appointed prime minister and his ally Dmitry Medvedev was president for a four-year hiatus — notably after Sergui Shoigu was appointed defense minister.
“There was no such brutality in the interior ministry or the border forces as there was in the troops who rushed to emergency situations. That’s where the most disturbing stories came to us. We listed all the complaints, made noise in the media, but, of course, nothing helped,” he told Lusa.
“That is, we saw that the results of our work achieved so far began to go down the drain: the legislative floor was set aside, we were denied the ability to appeal to the military line. It is true that there is a Ministry of Defense website, which anyone can enter and not return, who will study, where will be sent, who will decide. Without knowing…”, he laments.
Mothers of the UCMSR hoped that Medvedev would remain in the presidency for another four years and that a more tolerant environment would allow them to advance their demands, but after Putin returned to the presidency, they were “caught”.
“International organizations for the protection of human rights were crushed, and many had to flee the country,” says Melnikova.