Ukraine's defense ministry has told the mothers of captured Russian troops that they can have their sons back—if they come to Kyiv to collect them. In a message on the ministry's Facebook page, authorities provided instructions on getting to the border and contacting Ukrainian officials to be taken to the capital, which is being shelled by Russian forces. The ministry urged readers to share the information with "thousands of unfortunate Russian mothers, whose sons were captured in Ukraine," Business Insider reports. It added that Ukrainians, "in contrast to Putin's fascists, do not make war with mothers and their captured sons."
The ministry also provided a phone number mothers can call to find out whether their sons have been killed or captured in the conflict. It's not clear how many Russian troops have been captured since the invasion began almost a week ago. Ukraine says around 6,000 Russian invaders have been killed, while Russia's defense ministry said Wednesday that 498 of its troops have died in the conflict and almost 1,600 more have been wounded, Reuters reports. The ministry claimed almost 3,000 Ukrainian troops and what it called "nationalists" have been killed. Ukrainian authorities have shared videos of captured Russian soldiers—and graphic photos of dead ones.
Svetlana Golub, head of the Soldiers' Mothers Committee NGO, which advocates for Russian soldiers' rights, tells the Guardian that her phone hasn't stopped ringing since Thursday with calls from frantic relatives. "It is crazy,” she says. "We are getting hundreds and hundreds of calls. It’s just a sea of tears." The families, she says, "are being completely left in the dark. They had no idea that a military special operation was about to happen." Golub and military experts believe the Kremlin is probably concealing the true death toll. A Pentagon official said Tuesday that morale is so low among some Russian units that they have surrendered en masse or sabotaged their own vehicles to avoid fighting, the New York Times reports. (Read more Russia-Ukraine war stories.)