Russians send handmade gifts to troops in Ukraine amid patriotism push


RIGA, Latvia — Russian volunteers are crafting girdles from dog hair to help keep soldiers fighting against Ukraine warm. Children as young as six are tasked in school to sew balaclavas and make amulets believed to protect soldiers. Elderly “knitting battalions” are churning out chunky socks to send to the front.

In Magnitogorsk, a city near the Ural Mountains, Sergei Loza’s bakery collects wild hops to make whole-meal sourdough rusks for soldiers based on his grandmother’s recipe. Technical school students from Voronezh, in southwestern Russia, have made trench candles and welded chunky metal camp stoves.

Schoolchildren from across Russia’s vast expanse make letters and drawings in support of the military.

These seemingly spontaneous gestures are often top-down efforts organized by local officials, schools, state-financed pro-Russian youth groups and federal “Active Aging” centers, in a Kremlin-led effort to reverse declining support for…