Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday hit out at what he said were skewed media portrayals of Moscow’s military campaign in Ukraine as he met with mothers of Russian soldiers fighting there, AP reports.

“Life is more difficult and diverse that what is shown on TV screens or even on the Internet. There are many fakes, cheating, lies there”, Putin said.

The meeting in the Kremlin with more than a dozen women came as uncertainty persists over whether enlistment efforts may resume in the face of recent battlefield setbacks.

Putin said that he sometimes speaks with troops directly by telephone, according to a Kremlin transcript and photos of the meeting. “I’ve spoken to (troops) who surprised me with their mood, their attitude to the matter. They didn’t expect these calls from me… (the calls) give me every reason to say that they are heroes,” Putin said.

Some soldiers’ relatives have complained of not being invited to the meeting and have directly criticized Putin’s leadership as well as the recent “partial mobilization” that defense officials said resulted in 300,000 reservists being called up.

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