the Russian ambassador warns of a war escalation after Zelensky’s visit to the US.

Russians hold fundraiser to buy boots and bulletproof vests for undersupplied Kremlin troops

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a training camp for recruits called up for military service under partial mobilization, in Ryazan, western Russia, in October. (Credit: Kremlin Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

Citizens of Russia are taking up a financial collection to equip soldiers deployed to Ukraine as winter approaches the battlefield.

Troops have complained that they lack basic equipment and the message reached Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. Putin and other officials say they are working to overcome problems with the supply of newly mobilized troops, blaming supply chain problems in part.

But the Kremlin has also increased the pressure on those who dare to complain and increasingly frames the invasion of Ukraine as a patriotic and quasi-existential cause.

Local campaigns are raising funds for soldiers both in Russia and in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine.

One, dubbed “It’s Warmer Together,” has raised 3 million rubles (about $45,000) to provide basic clothing and equipment for Russian soldiers.

A Telegram channel detailed last month how citizens helped supply the DPR’s 6th Motorized Rifles, a 74-man company.

The channel listed what the citizens bought: uniforms, thermal underwear, socks, hats, balaclavas, sweaters, berets, a generator, portable batteries, medicines, clothes, boots and even two wheelchairs, which the company took to the hospital.

In the Chuvashia region, where the mobilization sparked protests in the fall, Telegram channels said families had gone into debt to buy equipment.

“From the officials there, all they got were parting words and three sacks of potatoes,” said one.

Many of the public fundraising appeals focus on preventing hypothermia among soldiers fighting without proper clothing or shelter in subzero temperatures. In the central Russian city of Tambov, for example, eighth grade schoolchildren raised money for socks for the troops.

But some are also trying to get hold of thermal imaging devices, two-way radios, body armor, or even drones.

Maxim Samorukov, a member of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote in the foreign policy magazine last week: “Ordinary Russians are expected to help their friends and family who have had the misfortune of being conscripted. In fact, they have no choice but to cover the gaps in state provisions out of their own pocket simply to protect their loved ones.”

Read more about Russia’s supply problems and Moscow’s official response here.

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