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Mothers Protest Russian Conscripts' Deployment To Daghestan

Special forces during an antiterrorism operation in Makhachkala, Daghestan, earlier this month.
ST. PETERSBURG, Russia -- The NGO Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg picketed the Interior Ministry Troops Staff headquarters in the city today to protest the mass deployment of conscripts to Daghestan, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

The NGO says it learned from the soldiers' parents that young soldiers serving in the town of Lebyazhye near St. Petersburg are being forced to sign contracts and secretly sent to the violence-prone North Caucasus republic of Daghestan. The parents say that the soldiers are not being allowed to take mobile phones with them.

They also say that the reason local military officials have given for the deployment to Daghestan is the Winter Olympic in the Black Sea city of Sochi in 2014. The parents rejected that explanation as "unsatisfactory."

Soldiers' Mothers of St. Petersburg chairwoman Ella Polyakova told RFE/RL that the situation is reminiscent of that on the eve of military operations in Chechnya in 1994 and 1999 and the Russian-Georgian war in South Ossetia in 2008.

The picketers held placards inscribed "What Is Russia Getting Ready For?" and "Why Do We Need This?"