Thousands of young Russian men have died during the invasion of Ukraine and there is anger that the sons of well-known people, including TV presenter Tina Kandelaki, find ways around conscription
Image: Mikhail Japaridze/TASS)
A woman who has been branded as one of Vladimir Putin’s top TV propagandists has been asked why her 20-year-old son hasn’t been drafted into the Russian army.
Thousands of young Russian men have died during the invasion of Ukraine and there is anger that the sons of well-known people find ways around conscription.
Multi-millionaire TV presenter Tina Kandelaki has been among the most forthright in backing Putin.
The 46-year-old even appeared on stage last week in a live pro-war event attended by the Russian leader marking the eighth anniversary of the annexation of Crimea.
But Russian cooking expert and strong war critic, Veronika Belotserkovskaya, challenged her over the whereabouts of her son, Leontyi ‘Leo’ Kondrakhin.
“Tina, I hope your son, as the son of a patriot, is now inside a tank near Melitopol?” the 51-year-old asked.
Images show the young musician in Moscow currently, not in the army, and a video highlights him playing in a punk band.
Under Russian laws, he could have been conscripted from 18, but elite parents often arrange a medical exemption for their offspring, or his studies may have allowed him to defer.
The TV star and mum-of-two has not answered the question as thousands of other parents have been faced with their children returning in coffins due to the war.
Senior editor Natalya Sindeyeva, 50, head of independent Rain TV, blocked by the authorities, also published a moving open letter to Ms Kandelaki and two other prominent Russian women
She wrote: “You are beautiful, bright, strong women. You are famous, but also you are mothers.
“I am a mother too, and as a mother I can’t stop crying…. I remember how we discussed [our children’s] schools with you, Tina.
“We watched our children grow, worried about them, and worked hard for their future.
“Just like thousands of Ukrainian mothers – whose hopes and plans have been destroyed. Children are dying in Ukraine.
“Very little children, one-year-olds, two-year-olds, schoolchildren and those who are kindergarten age.
“Girls and boys die under bombing, die in shelters, die on the way trying to escape and hide.
“Ukrainian mums bury their children in small coffins. And I think about it constantly, and I don’t know how to live with it.
“What do we, mums, tell their mums?”
She demanded: “Russia, please protect your children.
“Don’t send boys into battle – leave my son to me, leave Tina’s son to Tina, and Margo’s son to Margo [Simonyan].”
In her speech at Putin’s support-the-war rally, Ms Kandelaki had accused the West of seeking to erase Russia like a social media account, implying this was why the war in Ukraine was necessary.
She told the crowd: “We carry the rank of Russia with pride, despite all the difficulties and hardships that we now have to go through.”
The West wants to “erase” the whole of the country “like a social media account” and this is done “for one simple reason – you speak Russian.”