Roundups continue in and around Moscow, where authorities have been forcibly delivering young men to draft offices and conscripting them in a single day. Volunteers from the Movement of Conscientious Objectors, a human rights organization supporting those who refuse to perform military service, have documented 25 cases of forced conscription in Moscow and its surrounding region, 20 of which took place in the past two weeks. Draft office officials threaten young men with criminal prosecution, force them to appear in front of medical evaluation boards and refuse to consider draft deferral certificates. Not only do conscripts face the risk of serving in border or occupied regions, they are also exposed to pressure to sign a contract. BBC News Russian related the stories of several roundup victims and asked legal experts and human right defenders about defense strategies in cases of forced conscription.
News came that officials had already transferred Sergey Komarov to a military unit, despite his right to a draft deferral. Earlier on Nov. 28, police officers forcibly took the student of the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration from his home to a draft office. Human rights defenders stress that Komarov suffers from serious health problems.
Aleksey Ritter, a candidate in the municipal by-elections in the Tula region, wrote that his son had been conscripted into the army. Earlier on Nov. 30, a group of unidentified masked men forcibly took the young man from the family’s home to a draft office. Ritter stated that his son is currently in a quarantine facility in Mosrentgen [a settlement in Moscow]. Despite suffering from a high fever, he has not received appropriate care. According to Ritter, the military unit is experiencing a meningitis epidemic, with reports of several dozen cases, including one with a fatal outcome.
Authorities in Surgut plan to recruit 800 contract soldiers to participate in the war with Ukraine in 2024. In the latest approved version of the city budget for next year, 120 million rubles [$1,315,400] have been allocated for sign-up bonuses for volunteer fighters. This amount corresponds to the recruitment of 800 contract soldiers—each volunteer fighter is being paid 150,000 rubles [$1,644].
On Nov. 28, two participants in the Put Domoy [Way Home].Ulyanovsk Telegram chat wrote that police officers had visited them and issued warnings over the car stickers applied as part of a campaign against indefinite mobilization. According to the wives of mobilized soldiers, they were threatened with a charge of discrediting the Armed Forces. At least four participants of the Ulyanovsk chat were invited by the police for a conversation, and one of them was summoned to report to the police station on Dec.4. At the end of November, women in the Put Domoy.Ulyanovsk chat were planning to organize a car rally with vehicles bearing the stickers. After media coverage, the women were invited to meet with the deputy governor. They were asked to remove videos and photos with the stickers from the chat. Meanwhile, the main Put Domoy Telegram channel continues publishing photos of cars with the campaign slogan from different regions of the country.
The Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel noticed that the chats of the wives of mobilized soldiers connected with the Put Domoy Telegram channel have been attacked by bots. Journalists analyzed the chat comments and concluded that some messages were written by users with photos borrowed from real user accounts on the VKontakte social network. These messages, however, were posted under different names and their authors were usually added to the chat just before sending a message. These comments suggest that the chats and the channel itself are connected with Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation and with Navalny himself, and draw attention to the fake label that appeared on the channel a few days ago, potentially as a result of a complaint from professional informer Ilya Remeslo.
The Pepel publication conducted an investigation into the losses among residents of the Belgorod region who died as a result of the invasion of Ukraine. At least 520 people from the region were killed in the war during combat operations. For comparison, during the 10-year war in Afghanistan, 80 residents of the region died, and during the First and Second Chechen Wars, the number of military casualties ranged from 118 to 180. Additionally, 67 civilians from the region became victims of the invasion.
The body of a serviceman killed in action cannot be brought home for six months. In April of this year, 28-year-old Vladimir Nikitushkin from the Tambov region and his brother joined the military under contract. On May 8, they were deployed to the frontline, and on May 26, Vladimir died in his brother's arms. The commander did not allow the body to be taken immediately. As a result, the body was evacuated on May 30 to the city of Rostov-on-Don, and since then, no one has seen the man's body. Moreover, Vladimir is not listed among the dead or missing in action; he is still officially recognized as an active-duty serviceman.
Relatives of mobilized Gennady Kiskorov from Novokuznetsk, who is currently stationed in the Donetsk region, reported that, on orders from commanders, the soldier was tied to a tree for several hours during the night to force him to go to the frontline. The Kiskorov brothers were initially deployed to the frontline after the start of mobilization, later engaged in building positions in the rear. When the new command decided to send them back to the frontline, the young men submitted requests to replace military service with alternative civilian service. Subsequently, Gennady was tied to a tree. His brother Semyon managed to capture the incident on camera.
The courts of the Southern Military District have once again sentenced servicemen for going AWOL:
- Contract soldier Roman Semak was sentenced to two and a half years in a penal colony. On Oct. 15, 2022, he did not show up at his unit and returned to service only on Feb. 6.
- Draftee Nikolay Polukarov received two and a half years of probation. On June 22, he left the combat zone and went to the Stavropol region, and on July 17, he voluntarily reported to the military investigative department.
- Contract soldier Yevgeny Millerov and mobilized soldier Aleksandr Panarin also left the combat zone on July 22, and then voluntarily reported to the military investigative department on July 17 and 18, respectively. Millerov received two years of probation because the court took into account that the serviceman is decorated with the medal "For Courage," and Panarin received two and a half years of probation.
- Contract soldier Artyom Antonitsyn was sentenced to two years in prison. Two weeks after signing the contract, he left his unit and voluntarily returned on July 20. Before signing the contract with the Ministry of Defense, Antonitsyn had been repeatedly convicted. He was removed from the Federal Penitentiary Service's records due to conditional release for participation in the war against Ukraine, according to the court's decision.
In the Kemerovo region, a criminal case has been initiated against local resident Andrey K. on charges of intended treason and intended aiding of terrorist activities. Law enforcement officials believe that the 36-year-old man left his personal information in the Hochu Zhit [I Want to Live] Telegram bot and subsequently received a candidate questionnaire for joining the "Freedom of Russia Legion." According to the Astra Telegram channel, the man was arrested on Sept. 8 at Kemerovo Airport. Earlier, the Sota media outlet revealed that a network of fake bots had been created in Russia for "recruitment into the Armed Forces of Ukraine."
Officials in Russia's constituent republic of Sakha (Yakutia) distributed drink ice to eight families of war participants. According to officials, this is one of the most common requests made by wives and mothers of soldiers at this time of the year. In the Novosibirsk region, Vladimir Golubev, the speaker of the city council in Berdsk, presented a box of chocolates to the family of a killed soldier on the occasion of the birthday of United Russia [Putin’s ruling party].
Transbaikal State University will hold an "Open Door Day on the Weaving of Camouflage Nets."
Students of Kazan Architecture and Construction State University, as part of the "Writing to You, Hero!" campaign, wrote letters to Russian soldiers participating in the invasion. In the Murmansk region, Young Army [pro-Kremlin youth organization] members, students, and teachers of school No 151 took part in a similar campaign.
Students from several Russian universities are being forced to undergo surveys to determine their understanding of patriotism, "church values," and "traditional values."
Member of the State Duma [lower house of the Federal Assembly of Russia] Rahim Azimov said that a rehabilitation center for participants of the "special military operation" and their family members has been established in the Kirov region. To build it, a branch of the Bobin children's daycare was closed—now children will have to be transported to a neighboring village 7 km away.
The Nastoyashcheye Vremya [Current Time, an editorially independent US-funded Russian language media outlet] has released a report on Russian officer Konstantin Yefremov, who participated in the war for nearly three months before leaving for the United States. Yefremov, now residing in a roadside motel, spent a considerable time in immigration detention upon his arrival in the U.S., trying to legalize his status. Earlier, he provided a comprehensive interview to the BBC, detailing the torture and interrogations by the Russian Armed Forces on the occupied territory of Ukraine.
According to a study by the Khroniki [Chronicles] project, 40% of Russians would support President Putin's decision to withdraw troops without achieving the objectives of the "special military operation," while 33% would not. Interestingly, the percentage of those in favor of troop withdrawal has remained stable at 39-40% throughout the year. In contrast, the number of those opposed has consistently decreased, dropping from 47% in February 2023 to 39% in July. Researchers suggest that the core support for the war in 2023 has nearly halved, comprising only 12% of the Russian population.