President Putin has signed a decree according to which members of volunteer units or their relatives will be eligible to receive compensation from the Ministry of Defense or an insurance company that has a contract with the ministry in the event of injury or death of a "volunteer fighter."
Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] has drawn attention to the fact that in July 2023, Vladimir Putin signed a record number of classified decrees since 1999 — 62% of the president's documents were not made public. Such decrees are often related to awarding participants in combat activities, including posthumous awards. As many as 12 classified decrees were signed between July 27 and 31, marking the highest consecutive number of undisclosed decrees since the beginning of the conflict. At the outset of the invasion in March 2022, the share of classified decrees reached 54%.
MinTsifry [the Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media of Russia] has sent a letter to the Ministry of Defense proposing to grant draft deferrals to IT specialists without higher education as part of regular conscription. As reported by Izvestiya [Russian state-controlled daily newspaper], this initiative arose due to complaints from major Russian IT companies about a shortage of specialists in the job market. Currently, draft deferrals are only granted to employees with higher education.
According to Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia's Security Council, 231,000 individuals have signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense since Jan. 1, 2023. One month ago, Medvedev reported a recruitment of 185,000 men. Therefore, according to Medvedev's statement, the army has been replenished by 46,000 soldiers in a month, with an average of just under 1,500 men signing contracts per day. This is consistent with the statistics Medvedev announced on July 4. As noted by the Sota media outlet and BBC News Russian, the figures provided could include "volunteer fighters" and mobilized men who were forced to sign contracts with the Ministry of Defense. In total, Russian authorities plan to recruit 400,000 new contract soldiers.
In Saint Petersburg, 50 volunteer fighters who had signed contracts with the Ministry of Defense were seen off. At the station building where the soldiers were departing, a poster with the inscription "For the sake of peace on Earth" and an image of US AH-64 Apache helicopters was put up.
Russia has started looking for volunteer fighters for the Army in Kazakhstan. They are offered 495,000 rubles [$5,235] as a sign-up bonus and a monthly salary of at least 190,000 rubles [$2,000]. The advertisements posted on the Internet are clearly targeting citizens of Kazakhstan. In particular, they feature Russian and Kazakhstan flags with the slogan "Shoulder to Shoulder" next to them. Judging by the size of the payments and the website linked to in the ad, the initiative belongs to the Sakhalin authorities.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Andrey Pokladok from Saint Petersburg, Ayrat Yuzeyev from the Samara region, and Roman Nesterov with Vadim Barnyakov from the Sverdlovsk region.
The Defense Ministry's Zvezda TV channel has removed a congratulatory message on Paratrooper's Day from Colonel General Mikhail Teplinsky, commander of the Russian Airborne Forces. In his message, Teplinsky said that more than 8,500 paratroopers were wounded during the war in Ukraine. Of these, 5,000 returned to the frontline after treatment, and over 3,500 refused to leave the forward positions at all. The number of non-recoverable losses was not reported by the Commander. The number of Russian airborne troops before the invasion was estimated at about 45,000.
The Astra Telegram channel continues to receive new reports of mobilized soldiers being illegally detained in a basement for refuseniks in Zaitseve. Last year, it was used to detain about 300 mobilized soldiers who refused to fight in Ukraine.
The mother of Viktor Petrov, the mobilized soldier from the Irkutsk region who was found hanged, has managed to persuade the authorities to exhume his body. However, she is not kept updated on the progress of the investigation and is not authorized to attend the exhumation.
Aleksey Abramov, a mobilized resident of Krasnodar, despite his injured spine, was ordered to go to war directly from the hospital. The man had been mobilized despite having health issues. Abramov’s wife filed numerous complaints and finally managed to get her husband hospitalized. At the hospital, he was confirmed fit for limited military service, but the commanders still want to send him to forward positions. Abramov has been refusing to comply with this requirement so far.
44-year-old Ruslan Shakirov from the Sverdlovsk region was mobilized despite being eligible for exemption. In March, he filed a complaint with the Military Prosecutor's Office. However, in July, according to Shakirov, he was threatened into signing a contract by alleging that there was a criminal case against him. He is now demanding the Military Prosecutor's Office to cancel the contract.
In its ruling on the complaint filed by a wrongfully mobilized citizen, a court in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject] referred to a classified resolution of the Interdepartmental Commission for Draft Deferment, effectively leaking its content, BBC News Russian revealed. In particular, the court held that "a draft deferral application made by the employer does not constitute irrefutable grounds for granting a deferral, inasmuch as draft offices are authorized to enroll citizens entitled to a deferral." That said, it cannot be independently verified whether or not draft offices may legitimately disregard deferral applications lodged by employers. According to a human rights lawyer BBC News Russian spoke with, the federal law that explicitly forbids mobilizing individuals entitled to a deferral prevails over any classified document. On the other hand, the Sota media outlet believes that the statement referring to "irrefutable grounds" should be understood as a private opinion of the judge. Either way, apparently, draft offices still have a possibility to bend and bypass the law.
Volunteer fighters from the city of Tyumen are struggling to have their war veteran status acknowledged in order to get access to benefits. The draft office requires documentation from the Ministry of Defense providing evidence of combat service, but does not specify the exact types of documents that need to be submitted. Meanwhile, the men say they are receiving telephone calls from the draft office personnel "inviting" them to return to the front.
Two men turned violent against an 18-year-old girl in the town of Kamensk-Uralsky in the Sverdlovsk region, enraged over the blue color of her hair and her "looking like a Jew." The assailants beat the girl and threatened to kill her. According to eyewitnesses, prior to attacking the girl, the men bullied and harassed bypassers, claiming to have returned from the war. Soon thereafter the offenders were detained; in a video released by the police, they denied having participated in the war. Mediazona notes that the number of violent assaults against people who wear an unusual hair color has recently increased in Russia. Over the last month only, as many as three such incidents have been reported.
A court sentenced a mobilized soldier to four years of probation for possession of ammunition. The man had placed hand grenades, brought from the war, in the trunk of his car, which was stopped by traffic police while his partner was driving. The grenades were discovered during the inspection.
The number of cases involving assault, causing bodily harm, and abuse of authority among fellow soldiers increased by one and a half times in the past year. From June 2022 to June 2023, over 780 such cases were brought to court, compared to approximately 520 similar cases in the previous year.
The Kyakhta Garrison Military Court found Corporal Andrey Sokolov guilty of theft and fined him 100,000 rubles [$1,050] for instructing his subordinates to reduce the amount of products in the cauldron while serving as the acting head of the field kitchen. This way, the corporal "saved" over 200 kg of canned food and 20 liters of cooking oil, which he subsequently sold.
The Novosibirsk Garrison Military Court sentenced soldier Anton Ryapolov to a five-year suspended sentence for unauthorized absence. On Nov. 24, 2022, he left a train and went home to the Novosibirsk region. In February, he surrendered to one of the draft offices in the region. The court noted that Ryapolov returned home, partly to "clarify the reasons for the non-payment of monetary allowances."
Samara Garrison Military Court sentenced a mobilized soldier to three years' probation for going AWOL. He failed to report to his unit during the period from Feb. 26 to March 23, 2023.
On Aug. 1, as a result of an arson on the railway section between Sestroretsk and Beloostrov in Saint Petersburg, the relay and battery cabinets were completely destroyed. Consequently, 11 local commuter trains were delayed. Several 17-year-old teenagers were detained on suspicion of setting fire to a relay cabinet in Vsevolozhsk. They were promised 10,000 rubles [$105] for sabotage.
In the first six months of 2023, 15 crimes were committed on the railway in the Vladimir region. The crimes involved damage to tracks, signaling and blocking devices. The number of such crimes increased by 400% compared to 2022. The Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested 11 individuals in the Vladimir region, including 6 teenagers, in connection with the aforementioned crimes.
A 19-year-old resident of Novosibirsk was sentenced to six years of prison for preparation for high treason and attempted illegal crossing of the Russian border in the Kursk region. Most likely, he was intending to participate in the war on the side of Ukraine.
According to the Zona Solidarnosti [Solidarity zone] Telegram channel, Sergey Okrushko is being tortured in a pre-trial detention center arrested on suspicion of sabotage at the Kuibyshev oil refinery in Samara.
More reports or military commissariats [enlistment offices] arsons all over Russia continue to arrive. Over the past five days, 30 Russian enlistment offices have been set on fire and 32 suspects have been arrested (we have reported on this wave of arsons in our previous summaries 1, 2, 3, 4). Over the past 24 hours, the following incidents have been reported:
- In Khabarovsk, a 74-year-old woman attempted to set fire to a military commissariat: she approached the apartment building where a recruitment point for contract soldiers was located and threw a bottle with flammable liquid at the window. After her arrest, she learned that she had set fire not to the military commissariat, but to a branch of the Central Library.
- In Volgograd, a 31-year-old employee of the committee of justice of the Volgograd region was detained near a draft office carrying Molotov cocktails. The woman is accused of trying to set fire to a military commissariat. She is claimed to be a former employee of the committee.
The courts refused to detain arsonists of draft offices in Kopeysk and Verkhneuralsk, who were manipulated by scammers. A 76-year-old man from Kotov Pole detained for attempting to set fire to a military commissariat in Vsevolozhsk, was released on personal recognizance to appear. A criminal case was initiated against the man under the article "Attempt to destroy someone else's property by arson." Meanwhile, 82-year-old Rimma Vtorova detained for attempting to set fire to a draft office in Volgograd wasreleased because she was recognized as a victim in a fraud case. At the same time, the court extended the arrest of Zhanna Romanovskaya, the former head of the financing department of the Ministry of Architecture of the Vladimir Region, until Sept. 6. She was accused under an article on hooliganism for attempting to set fire to a military commissariat in Vladimir on June 7, 2023.
Vladimir region authorities urge people to exercise caution amid widespread incidents of draft office arson and warn against falling victims to "incitement by phone scammers acting for the benefit of Ukraine." In the Voronezh region, authorities encourage citizens to report any strangers who suggest attacking draft offices to the police. Meanwhile, Governor of the Volgograd region Andrey Bocharov speaking at the crisis center meeting asked people to use the emergency phone service if any scamming activities are suspected.
In the town of Sovetskiy, the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region, a pensioner and a group of volunteers raised almost one million rubles [ $10,500] for the needs of the soldiers fighting in Ukraine. The volunteers used the money to purchase radio sets, thermal goggles, clothing, etc.
On Paratroopers' Day, festive activities were organized for children in Sovetskiy. Among other things, children were taught to disassemble and assemble the Kalashnikov assault rifle.
The second part of the investigation about the Alga volunteer battalion by the Idel.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet. During the fighting at Vuhledar on Feb. 6, 2023, the battalion suffered devastating losses, with at least 27 people killed, over 60 wounded, and some still missing. For more details, you can read the first part of the investigation here.