Vladimir Putin met with bereaved mothers of soldiers in what has been accused of being a staged meeting.
Putin told the women he "shared their pain" amid growing anger over the deaths of mobilized troops.
Activists advocating for the relatives of dead soldiers said they had not been invited to the event.
Russian President Vladimir Putin met with the mothers of soldiers who died fighting in Ukraine in what activists say was a staged meeting designed to calm public anger about the deaths of mobilized troops.
In the televised event on Friday ahead of the country's Mother's Day, Putin told a select group of bereaved mothers that he and the country's leadership "share your pain," according to The Guardian.
Since Putin announced the partial mobilization of reservists in September, reports have emerged about many dying on the front line after being sent with insufficient training and poor equipment. Troops have also complained on social media about substandard living conditions.
Activists previously told The Guardian that Putin's meeting with bereaved mothers would likely be a carefully orchestrated publicity stunt, with participants preselected to avoid friction.
The Guardian identified several women who attended the event and said that none had been critical of the war in Ukraine. Some were known to be pro-Kremlin.
Olga Tsukanova, a leader of the Council of Mothers and Wives, a grassroots organization of relatives of Russian soldiers, said that Putin had not invited any of its members.
The organization has been vocal in its criticisms of the mobilization and petitioning the government to address its concerns.
"Are you a man or what? Do you have the courage to look us in the eye, not with hand-picked women and mothers in your pocket, but with real women who have traveled from various cities here to meet with you?" she said in the video, per The Moscow Times.
Valentina Melnikova, an activist who founded the Committee of Soldiers Mothers of Russia in 1989, also told The Guardian that she had not been invited to the meeting.
While speaking to the women, the Russian president urged them not to trust media reports.
"It is clear that life is more complicated and diverse than what is shown on TV screens or even on the internet – you can't trust anything there at all, there are a lot of all sorts of fakes, deception, lies," Putin told the group of women, according to The Guardian.
"This is why we have gathered with you. That's why I proposed this meeting because I wanted to listen to you first-hand."
Putin's decision to stage the meeting suggests an awareness of the need to quell public anger and improve the perception of the war at home.
The decision to draft reservists was met with days of protests and has made the war personal for many ordinary Russians.
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