Citing a secret report, the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel writes that in the second half of 2023, when the authorities began the "hunt" for naturalized citizens who failed to register for military service, they identified 569 draft dodgers. They are now all added to the military rolls while 103 individuals have been conscripted. Moreover, the authorities have brought draft evasion charges against 52 naturalized citizens. Courts have handed down two verdicts so far, fining one defendant 60,000 rubles [$665] and the other 100,000 rubles [$1,110]. Prosecutors have dropped charges in nine cases, indicating that the defendants "sincerely repented and joined the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces." Finally, authorities issued arrest warrants for 26 individuals.
Vazhnyye Istorii [IStories, independent Russian investigative media outlet] found out that the Redut PMC [private military company under the control of the Ministry of Defense] is now recruiting individuals with HIV for the war against Ukraine. They noticed a post in the Saint George Brigade Telegram channel. It states that "from this day forward, we accept guys with HIV or hepatitis into a unit analogous to Umbrella." Umbrella was the Wagner Group unit composed of soldiers suffering from these conditions. According to the advertisement, the contracts are concluded for a 6-month period with a monthly salary of 230,000 rubles [$2,550]. A Vazhnyye Istorii journalist called the number listed in the advertisement, pretending to be a man with HIV wishing to go to war. The recruiter informed him that contracts are concluded with the Redut PMC. He also clarified that each volunteer fighter is expected to bring his own antiretroviral therapy medications. Individuals with HIV or hepatitis remain barred from service in the Ministry of Defense.
Mothers and fathers of participants in the war in Ukraine from the Kursk region will be awarded medals, as signed into law by the governor of the region, Roman Starovoyt. The medals "Mother of a Hero" and "Father of a Hero" will be presented to the parents of those "distinguished in the performance of civic or official duties."
On Dec. 18, the Put Domoy [Way Home] Telegram channel of wives and mothers of mobilized soldiers, for the first time called on Vladimir Putin to cease combat operations in Ukraine and sit down for negotiations or go to the frontlines himself. In a video address posted on the channel, a man in military uniform, identifying himself as a mobilized soldier, made the demand to end the war. According to him, the mobilized men are tired of fighting, and the majority of them want peace and to return home. The man also expressed doubts about the stated goals of the "special military operation"—-"denazification" and "demilitarization"—and urged other mobilized soldiers to record video appeals as well.
Speaking to the Sibir.Realii [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty] online media outlet, relatives of mobilized soldiers expressed outrage that Putin "ignored all the questions of the wives and mothers of the military," leading many to anger. The wives of mobilized soldiers interviewed by the editorial team admit that they "no longer believe in letters," but they are afraid to "take to the streets." In the Telegram chats uniting the relatives of soldiers, those suggesting to do something more than just filing a complaint are accused of "incitement." Instead, chat organizers propose writing new appeals to the Minister of Defense Shoigu, Chief of the General Staff of the RuAF Gerasimov, and Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council Medvedev, urging them to fulfill the promise made a year ago and replace mobilized soldiers with volunteer fighters.
While the women's anti-mobilization movement Put Domoy [Way Home] is gaining momentum in Russia, authorities are persecuting the Council of Mothers and Wives movement, which earlier fought for the return of the soldiers. Olga Tsukanova, the head of the movement, told the Istorii i Fakty [Stories and Facts] media outlet how security services are seeking revenge on her for defending the mobilized.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Andrey Shikalov from Udmurtia [Russia's constituent republic]. It has also become known about the death of Aleksey Kostin from the Orenburg region. He was mobilized when he went to the draft office last fall to be removed from the military rolls. Without a medical evaluation, he was immediately sent to the frontline. The Kostin family believes that the mobilization of their male family member was unlawful because, among other things, they were denied the 50,000 rubles [$550] payment mandated for the families of war participants. Kostin was killed on Nov. 6, 2023. His parents approached the Military Prosecutor's Office to hold the draft office staff accountable.
Since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the number of natives and residents of the Volga region who have been killed in the war has reached at least 9,000, according to the Idel.Realii online media outlet [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty]. Most of the deceased are from Russia's constituent republic of Bashkortostan (1,242 people), followed by the Samara region (1,050 people). Meanwhile, according to the counts of the Krym.Realii online media outlet [part of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty], more than 540 servicemen from annexed Crimea have been killed in the war.
Wives of mobilized men from the Ulyanovsk, Samara, and Kirov regions, serving in the 30th Motor Rifle Brigade, have recorded a video address. According to the women, the soldiers are being sent back into assault squads despite sustaining injuries in previous assaults. In particular, one of the mobilized soldiers lost feeling in his legs after returning from the last assault. Rather than being hospitalized, he has been assigned to the Sarmat Battalion and is being prepared for a new assault.
The military medical board has deemed a volunteer fighter from the Akhmat unit partially fit for military service ("V" service fitness category), despite the fact that the individual had lost one leg while his other leg was severely injured. The man, who can only move in a wheelchair or with prosthetics, intends to appeal the board's decision.
The Voyennye Advokaty [Military Lawyers] Telegram channel has noted that the Constitutional Court will address the matter of military personnel dismissals during mobilization. The case arose from a lawsuit filed by a 49-year-old serviceman named Andrey K. The man entered into a contract in September 2022 for a six-month term. Following the start of mobilization, his contract was automatically extended. The soldier expected to be discharged upon reaching the maximum age of service (50) and submitted a report for dismissal. However, the command denied his request, citing legislative changes—a law that came into effect at the end of June 2023 raised the maximum age for military service during mobilization to 65 years. Lawyers are debating whether the new provision applies to all contract soldiers or only to those who signed contracts after June 24, 2023. The Constitutional Court is now expected to resolve this issue.
The court declared illegal the actions of the Moscow draft board, which conscripted student Pavel Azarkevich despite his valid draft deferral. The 23-year-old student visited the draft board for a military registration data check-up in June 2023 and was then conscripted for regular military service. On Dec. 16, a court in the Kaluga region ruled that the draft board's actions were illegal but left the decision on Pavel's discharge from service to the discretion of the military commissariat [enlistment office].
According to the Sirena [Alarm] independent Telegram channel, soldiers who returned to Russia from the war in Ukraine committed over 80 crimes and murdered 51 people. Moreover, there are reports of 11 cases of sexual violence, in which six victims were minors.
The Rostov regional court sentenced former Wagner Group mercenary Pavel Nikolin to six years and 11 months in a very strict/special regime penal colony for shooting at police officers. In early December 2022, Nikolin opened fire on police officers near Novoshakhtinsk when they came upon him in a tree line. During the incident, he wounded one of the police officers and fled the scene. The suspect was later arrested and placed in a pre-trial detention center. Nikolin claimed he had mistaken the police officers for Ukrainian military personnel. He was initially sentenced to four years of imprisonment. However, in light of his previous conviction for theft and robbery, the court increased the sentence. Nikolin was recruited into the Wagner Group in 2022 while serving time in prison.
In Volgograd, five servicemen have been convicted for attempting to buy their way out of participating in the war. According to the prosecutors, the soldiers paid the battalion commander between 25,000 rubles [$280] and 150,000 rubles [$1,660] for the opportunity to avoid redeployment to the frontline. During the investigation, the commander admitted to suggesting the bribes himself, but currently, there are no criminal charges filed against him. Two of the accused received three years of probation and fines of 750,000 rubles [$8,300] and 500,000 rubles [$5,540], while the other two were only fined 150,000 rubles [$1,660] and 100,000 rubles [$1,110]. The fifth defendant, Vladislav Kolganov, was sentenced to two years in a penal colony and fined 750,000 rubles [$8,300]. Unlike the other defendants, he had resigned from the army and found employment at a military factory. He plans to appeal the verdict.
The Kyakhtinsky Garrison Military Court sentenced Private Kirill Kutsev to five and a half years in a penal colony for going AWOL. According to the court, on Dec. 19, 2022, Kutsev failed to report for duty, and on June 12, 2023, he was apprehended by military commandant's office personnel.
Mobilized soldier Aleksandr Kraynikov from Russia’s constituent Komi Republic was sentenced to six years in a penal colony for going AWOL. He did not return to his unit after his leave.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) reported the detention of a Crimean resident in the Pskov region who allegedly recorded military vehicles and positions of the RuAF units in Crimea from August to December 2022. The individual also disclosed the coordinates of the equipment and personnel locations. A criminal case for treason has been initiated.
The FSB also announced the detention of a "Ukrainian agent who was preparing to assassinate one of the leaders of a defense enterprise in Udmurtia." The authors of the anonymous anti-war Telegram channel Oblava [Roundup], who previously claimed responsibility for setting fire to a power substation in Izhevsk, stated that the detainee had no connection to them.
A court in Krasnodar sentenced local residents accused of "preparing an act of sabotage." Aleksandr Andreev was sentenced to six and a half years in prison, while Pyotr Voskoboinik was sentenced to seven years and two months of imprisonment. According to investigators, in February 2023, Andreev and Voskoboinik were offered 10,000 rubles [$110] each through a messenger for setting fire to relay cabinets.
Deputies from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) [right-wing populist and ultranationalist political party] suggest to provide combat veterans with a 50% discount on firewood and bottled gas.
Soldiers from the 106th Airborne Division have issued an appeal to residents of the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region–Yugra [Russia's federal subject], highlighting a critical shortage of drones and ammunition. They call on citizens to participate in fundraising efforts to acquire the necessary supplies.
Under the guidance of a technology teacher, students from Tatarstan [Russia’s constituent republic] are making crutches for the soldiers during their extracurricular time.
BBC News Russian has exposed significant tactical mistakes made by the command during the assault on Vuhledar at the end of 2022, which resulted in substantial casualties among the personnel of the 155th Guards Naval Infantry Brigade. The BBC and Mediazona [independent Russian media outlet] have identified the names of 234 soldiers from the brigade who lost their lives during the invasion of Ukraine. This number is four times higher than the losses suffered by this unit during the ten years of the Chechen war.