Russia’s Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu presented a report to President Putin on the results of the ministry's activities at a meeting of its expanded board (full version of the report). Shoigu stated that the production capacity of the military-industrial complex had allegedly quadrupled. He also claimed that the Russian Armed Forces had recruited approximately 490,000 individuals into its ranks in 2023. Since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, 650,000 service members have gained combat experience, with 458,000 receiving veteran status and 320,000 receiving awards. Moreover, Shoigu asserted that the Russian Armed Forces had formed two new combined arms armies, one combined air corps, four divisions, 18 brigades and 28 regiments. Next year the ministry will work to increase the number of military personnel to 1,320,000, including 745,000 contract soldiers. Finally, Shoigu expects the number of military personnel to reach 1,500,000 in the future.
A team of analysts at the Meduza international Russian-language online media outlet prepared a critical commentary on the numbers presented by the defense minister. For its part, the Vyorstka media outlet noted that Shoigu had overstated the land area captured in the course of the war against Ukraine by 23% in his speech. To make sense, his figures should include territories from which the RuAF retreated a year ago.
Radiy Khabirov, Governor of Russia’s constituent Republic of Bashkortostan, announced that the region will spend 4.6 billion rubles [$50.9 million] on the war in 2024. Of this amount, 2.8 billion rubles [$31 million] will be used to support the participants of the war, for example on combat-related compensation and procurement of equipment, vehicles and medicine. Another 1.8 billion rubles [$19.9 million] will be spent on “internal tasks,” such as support for war veterans and their families, payments to the wounded and to the relatives of soldiers killed in action. Meanwhile, Govorit NeMoskva [independent media outlet] notes that the regional budget deficit is expected to reach 10 billion rubles [$111 million].
The Memorial Human Rights Center has evaluated the increased number of roundups in recent months targeting mosques, Muslim communities, and potential workplaces and residences of individuals from Central Asian countries who have acquired Russian citizenship. According to human rights activists, on the one hand, the roundups are related to the need to replenish the personnel of the RuAF without announcing a "second wave" of mobilization before the presidential elections in March 2024. On the other hand, they are seen as a preparation for the mobilization of migrants, in case it is announced after the elections in March 2024.
In Moscow, a 23-year-old man, who was detained in the metro, was taken to the draft office, where officials tried to send him to a military collection point. However, he was released home after lawyers intervened. The young man has filed a lawsuit and a complaint with the Military Prosecutor's Office against the actions of draft office staff. In the lawsuit, he requests the recognition of his conscription and the decision of the draft board as illegal.
The deputies of the Perm City Duma [regional assembly] have approved the introduction of sign-up bonuses in the amount of 100,000 rubles [$1,110] for local residents who decide to enter into a contract with the Ministry of Defense to participate in the war in Ukraine. Additionally, in the Perm region, students whose fathers are participating in the war or were killed on the frontline will now receive free meals.
Members of the Put Domoy [Way Home] movement report that Federal Security Service (FSB) officers have begun interrogating mobilized soldiers whose wives are demanding their return from the frontline. According to them, the security forces have started to "systematically approach" the husbands of activists, confiscating their phones and seeking information about their wives. Some soldiers report that the FSB allegedly pressured them to record a video saying that they are "satisfied with the army" or to "tell their wife to shut up." Otherwise, the soldiers are threatened with a "no-return offensive." The women promise to "raise international attention" if anything happens to their loved ones.
The Astra Telegram channel spoke with 27-year-old mobilized Aleksandr Shpilev from Voronezh, who had previously recorded a video address calling to end the war with Ukraine. He stated that he is currently on leave and will soon be "forced to return to the frontline." Meanwhile, the Spektr [Spectrum] project interviewed a member of the Put Domoy movement about her attempts to bring her husband back from the front.
The list of mobilized soldiers killed in the war has been updated to include Oleg Izmailov from the Samara region, Sergey Yeflaev from Chuvashia [Russia’s constituent republic], Andrey Sashchenko from the Krasnodar region, Svyatoslav Pakhomov from the Stavropol region, as well as Vasily Pryimak and Andrey Lizogub from the Volgograd region.
On the morning of Dec. 19, wounded mobilized soldiers from the 7th military base in the Republic of Abkhazia [a Russian-occupied territory] were reportedly sent back to war against their will. According to a source cited by the Sota media outlet, the men did not complete the necessary treatment in the local hospital, but were handcuffed and sent to the frontline.
Women from various regions of Russia have recorded video appeals saying that the command of the 25th Motorized Rifle Brigade and the Ministry of Defense have ignored their requests for information or initiation of a search for their relatives from the Storm-Z unit, who were either killed or went missing in the Kupiansk direction. Among the missing servicemen were ex-convicts, mobilized and contract soldiers.
Dmitry Fomenko, a resident of Volgograd who went to war from a penal colony with the expectation of receiving a pardon, suffered a shrapnel wound to the head, resulting in the loss of one eye. Despite his injuries, he was sent back to his unit after spending only a month in the hospital. When Fomenko’s contract expired in the fall, he discovered that he had been registered as having spent several months in the hospital and was therefore denied combat-related compensation.
The Rezonans [Resonance] media outlet reported a similar case involving a mobilized soldier from the Vladimir region. The man was sent to the war with Ukraine after being injured without undergoing a medical evaluation board.
In the Omsk region, mobilized soldier Maksim Vikhorev was sentenced to six and a half years in a penal colony for going AWOL and escaping from a convoy during detention. In the winter of 2023, Vikhorev could not return on time from his leave to his unit due to cold weather. When he was preparing to depart, he discovered he was wanted. In July, he was detained in Omsk and taken to the investigative department, where he managed to escape. However, he was detained again while attempting to swim across the river. Vikhorev stated that he fled out of fear of criminal prosecution.
Dmitry Setrakov, a mobilized soldier detained in Armenia, has been deported to Russia. On Dec. 7, he was detained in Gyumri by individuals claiming to be Armenian military police. However, he was later found at a Russian military base. According to the Idite Lesom! [Flee through the woods/Get lost you all] Telegram channel, which assisted Setrakov in leaving Russia, he is currently in Rostov-on-Don, where the Regional Directorate of the Military Police for the Southern Military District is located. The project is seeking a lawyer for him.
The Krasnodar regional court sentenced 19-year-old Ilya Mironichev to 11.5 years in a penal colony for attempting to set fire to a relay cabinet and involving a minor in the crime. According to investigators, in May 2023, Mironichev received a Telegram message proposing to set fire to a relay cabinet. He asked an acquaintance to stand guard. As per the court's statement, the arson did not lead to "critical consequences."
The authorities in Tyva [Russia's constituent republic] plan to use "Buddhist spiritual practices" for the psychological rehabilitation of war participants. According to Maxim Ivanov, a member of the State Duma, the Sverdlovsk region has sent packages containing warm clothing and New Year's presents to the frontline. Additionally, Aleksandr Brechalov, the Head of Udmurtia [a constituent republic of Russia] reported sending three tons of dumplings to the front.
Volunteer soldiers from the Sura Battalion have recorded a video with a request to the residents of Chuvashia [Russia’s constituent republic] for financial support. According to them, they are experiencing losses not only in personnel but also in equipment, and they do not have their own funds to replenish the losses.
Children of war veterans with Ukraine have been invited to the "governor's Christmas party" in the Vladimir region. Meanwhile, the employees of the Republican Rehabilitation Center of Udmurtia, which provides social services to children with disabilities, are crafting camouflage nets.
Oksana Bukholtseva, a former deputy from Buryatia [Russia's constituent republic], who is presently serving as a school principal in the occupied part of Ukraine, has complained about monthly fees levied on teachers. These fees cover expenses for bus spare parts, refilling cartridges, purchasing cleaning supplies, light bulbs and paper.
The Priyomnaya [Reception] project, dedicated to the automated submission of appeals to members of Russian regional parliaments, has launched the "Christmas Truce" campaign. As part of this initiative, Russians are encouraged to send appeals calling for a cease fire during the New Year holidays. This initiative follows a similar campaign conducted by the project on the eve of 2023. Previously, the project also urged individuals to send appeals to the president, calling for the signing of a decree to end mobilization and replace mobilization calls with alternative civil service.
Border guards confiscated a Russian citizen's passport with a clerical error when he attempted to leave for Poland. The document had a misspelling of the city name Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, which was noticed by checkpoint staff. Consequently, the Russian individual was denied entry into Poland, and his passport was seized. According to the Agentstvo.Novosti [Agency News] Telegram channel, at least four Russians experienced similar passport confiscations due to mistakes. Agentstvo.Novosti managed to contact two of them, both confirming the incident and the reason for the confiscation. A law allowing the invalidation of passports came into force on Dec. 11, which includes provisions related to travel restrictions due to conscription.
The Stories & Facts media outlet interviewed social anthropologist Sergey Mokhov on how the absence of discussions about the death impacts society. The conversation delved into the effects of a person's death in war on their relatives and whether such incidents can serve as a motivation for them to protest.
Additionally, the Activatica media outlet told the story of Shakhzod, a migrant from Tajikistan who obtained Russian citizenship but faced persecution due to his anti-war stance. He managed to leave Russia and enter France illegally, where he is currently seeking asylum.